Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a city with spectacular views, a booming tourism industry, and a debate over fluoride. The city says it’s just following new CDC guidelines. Now, it finds itself in the middle of a national controversy.
“It can become a very contentious issue, very emotional issue, but we’re trying to follow the science and CDC,” said Davis Morris, who is the public relations spokesman for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority.
For decades, fluoride wasn’t even talked about in Albuquerque. Like many other US cities, it was part of life. Fluoride has been added to the drinking water since the 1950s.
But, new CDC guidelines led city and county leaders to make the decision to stop.
“As it turns out, our naturally occurring level of fluoride is right at what the CDC recommendations are,” Morris said.
The naturally occurring level is .7 ppm (parts per million). That’s what the CDC now recommends. It used to recommend up to 1.2 ppm.
How does this fit in with the Wichita fluoride debate? Wichita has naturally occurring fluoride, but the CDC says not enough. Wichita has .3 ppm, which is short of the recommended level.
“We didn’t look at fluoride, say that’s bad and we need to stop it because we’ve been doing the wrong thing all those years,” Morris said.
But, a decision that didn’t seem to create much controversy among people who live here pushed Albuquerque into a national debate.
“What I’ve seen is we’ve had activists on both sides,” Morris said, “pointing to us and calling us saying this is community that has stopped fluoridating.”
Anti-fluoride groups used Albuquerque as an example. Headlines calling it a “Major Health Victory” could be found all over the internet.
“Anytime this comes up the the media you’re going to have a group vocal about it I think it’s going to continue.”
Dentist like Dr. Paul Dunn, who serves the under-served in New Mexico, have paid close attention.
“I really hope no one is getting shorted on this,” Dr. Dunn told us. “Poor folks who are not aware of this tend to suffer most from the decisions we make.”
He’s okay with the decision to stop fluoridating, as long as levels remain where the CDC recommends. He also hopes, as the debate moves forward, that people don’t become too distracted.
“What we have to be careful of is we stick to the science.”