Chatham will continue adding fluoride to the town’s water supply despite pleas from a local resident that the practice is unnecessary and may be dangerous.
Councilman C.B. Cundiff, chairman of the town’s water and sewer committee, said Chatham investigated Jeff Hand’s claims, but found no credible evidence that fluoride poses health risks.
Cundiff cited letters from the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Dental Association, Virginia Oral Health Coalition, and American Academy of Pediatrics in support of fluoride, which has been added to water and toothpaste for more than 75 years.
Chatham dentist Dr. Paul Miller said fluoride protects against tooth decay.
“I believe taking fluoride out of the water in Chatham would decrease the healthcare in the community,” the dentist told council Monday night.
Jeff Hand has repeatedly asked town council and the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors to remove fluoride from drinking water.
“It’s proven to have more health concerns than benefits,” Hand said. “There is more evidence that fluoride is harmful rather than beneficial.”
Hand, a former modular and manufactured homes salesman, doesn’t live in the town and isn’t on public water. He lives in the Rondo area and has a well.
Chatham Town Council agreed to look at Hand’s information, mostly gleaned from the Internet, and seek advice from the health department.
Public Works Director Bob Hanson said the health department generally recommends using fluoride and paid for fluoridation equipment at the town’s water treatment plant.
According to Hanson, it costs about $3.50 per person a year to add fluoride to Chatham’s water supply. Chatham has used fluoride since the 1970s.
Jeffrey S. Wells, field director with the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water in Danville, assured town council that fluoride is safe.
“There is a lot of misinformation on websites,” Wells said. “The information we put our faith in comes from the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, and EPA.”
Wells also noted that fluoridation has been endorsed by the American Dental Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, and U.S. Surgeon General.
The health department sent Chatham a letter supporting fluoridation.
“Community water fluoridation is implemented as a public health measure to prevent tooth decay,” the letter said. “This department strongly encourages the town to continue the addition of fluoride to the drinking water as part of its treatment plant operations.”
According to Wells, 95 percent of public water systems in Virginia use fluoridation. Danville, Gretna, Martinsville, Henry County, South Boston, Lynchburg, and Campbell County all fluoridate their water.
The Centers for Disease Control, which named water fluoridation one the “Ten Great Public Health Interventions of the 20th Century,” said almost all water contains some naturally occurring fluoride, but usually at levels too low to prevent tooth decay.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed new recommendations for community water fluoridation, noting that sources of fluoride — namely toothpastes, mouth rinses, and professionally applied fluoride products — have increased since guidelines were first proposed in the early 1960s.
The department convened a panel of scientists and proposed reducing the recommended level for community water systems from 1.2 milligrams per liter to 0.7 milligrams per liter.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for fluoride in drinking water is 4.0 milligrams per liter.
The Centers for Disease Control and EPA acknowledge that fluoride, especially in excessive amounts, has health risks.
For example, children under age 8 and younger exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride have an increased chance of developing pits in tooth enamel. Bottle-fed babies may be at the highest risk.
Excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may increase the likelihood of bone fractures, and may result in effects on bone leading to pain and tenderness, a condition called skeletal fluorosis, which is rare in the United States.
Critics point out that it’s impossible to control how much fluoride a person consumes because people drink different amounts of water.