CHEYENNE — The vote in May by the Sheridan City Council to discontinue fluoridation of the city’s drinking water reflect a national movement against the additive.
An anti-fluoridation group, Fluoride Action Network (FAN) boasts on its website that 245 U.S. communities have rejected fluoridation since 2010.
The group claims that fluoridation may reduce liver and kidney function in adolescents, lower the IQ’s of children and may even cause cancer.
The group claims it has 88,000 members. Eight anti-fluoride residents of Wyoming, including two from Sheridan, are listed on the FAN web page as having signed an anti-fluoride petition.
In 1950, Sheridan ironically became one of the first U.S. cities to fluoridate its water in an effort to fight tooth decay.
The city abandoned the practice in 1954 after the 1953 passage of a referendum vote opposing fluoridation.
The push to once again add fluoride to the drinking water supply came about at least in part by a petition signed by more than 230 health and dental professionals asking the city to consider fluoridation to help combat widespread dental decay, according to Sheridan Press accounts.
The city council approved restarting the fluoridation program which continued until this year when a clean water group worked to stop adding it to the city’s drinking water.
Wyoming has no state law requiring fluoridation. That decision is up to local government bodies.
Among Wyoming’s six largest cities, only Cheyenne and Laramie currently treat their drinking water with fluoride, although Cheyenne has a supply problem that may halt the program at least temporarily.
The cities of Casper, Gillette, Rock Springs and now Sheridan, do not fluoridate their water.
Clint Bassett, water treatment division manager for the City of Cheyenne, said the city has been using supplemental fluoride to reach 0.7 parts per million.
Bassett said he city will keep adding fluoride until the supply on hand runs out — in a week or so.
The fluoride level will then drop to levels of 0.5 parts per million.
That will be the level of the water until the city’s supplier can get the raw materials needed to produce the fluoride.
When the city does run out it will issue a news release explaining the situation and advising residents to consult their dentists if they are concerned, Bassett said.
The temporary shortage developed last year as well.
In some areas, of the state, the raw water fluoride levels are naturally high and meet American Dental Association standards.
Gillette mixes water from aquifers and wells to get the recommended level of fluoride from natural deposits, said Diane Monahan, water services manager.
Proponents of fluoridation, meanwhile, say communities must resist this vocal minority of anti-fluoride activists because ceasing fluoridation is bad for public health and also for government budgets.
Anne Kim, vice president of domestic policy at the Progressive Policy Institute, likens the tactics of anti-fluoride activists like FAN to those used by organizations that oppose vaccinations.
“Like anti-vaccinators, anti-fluoride activists rely on spurious medical research to argue fluoridation’s hazards. FAN, (Fluoride Action Network) for instance, blames fluoride in water for everything from cancer to diabetes to low IQ to, ironically enough, tooth decay,” Kim wrote in a column for Governing.com.
“One thing that is backed up by facts? Fluoridation saves money — for consumers as well as governments. A 2016 Health Affairs study estimated the nation’s net savings from fluoridation to be nearly $6.5 billion a year from avoided dental costs. Conversely, ending fluoridation can be costly,” she added.
Meanwhile, the American Dental Association and the Wyoming Dental Association continue to strongly support fluoridation.
Brian Corant, a Buffalo dentist and president of the Wyoming Dental Association, said the additive is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.
“Since its introduction more than 70 years ago, fluoridated water at the recommended level has dramatically improved the oral health of millions of Americans. On a community-wide level water fluoridation is one of the few public health measures that saves more money than it costs,” Corant wrote in an e-mail.