COLDWATER — In a 5-1 vote, Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Counties Community Health Agency (CHA) commissioners issued a resolution supporting fluoride in water supplies.
Only Hillsdale County Commissioner Brad Benzing voted no.
The issue will come back for a vote Nov. 4 in the city of Bronson, officials of which are considering removal after years of adding the tooth decay prevention chemical to the water.
Currently in Michigan, 7 million residents have fluoride in drinking water. It is considered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century because the reduction in dental decay and resulting dental diseases where there is fluoride in the water is dramatic.
CHA medical director Dr. Lauren Vogel noted $1 invested in this preventive measure yields approximately $38 savings in dental treatment costs.
It occurs naturally in water. In Hillsdale County, Waldron and Somerset Centre Estates have natural levels so they do not treat. Hillsdale and Jonesville do add it. In St. Joseph County only Sturgis treats its water.
All Branch County water systems add the fluorasillcic acid to the recommended fluoride level of 0.7 milligrams per liter of water.
In 1945, Grand Rapids was the first city in the world to fluoridate its water supply, and even has a downtown sculpture commemorating that event.
Despite claims to the contrary, scientific research indicates there are no adverse effects to normal fluoridation levels according to the CDC, Vogel noted. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum safe level of 4 parts per million (ppm) . It has been shown that prolonged use of water with natural levels that exceed 2 ppm causes excess fluoride to collect in tooth enamel and cause white or grey spots and streaks to appear.
In its resolution, the CHA board stated it supported fluoridation “as a safe, cost effective and efficient public health measure to reduce dental decay and improve citizens’ health in our communities.”
Currently, more than 204 million people in the United States are served by public water supplies containing enough fluoride to protect teeth. Even so, approximately 100 million Americans do not have access to fluoridated water.
CHA health officer Steve Todd said there is fluoride in some toothpastes and mouthwashes, but the cost of those products is more expensive than water treatment and it must be used regularly.