Fluoride Action Network

Communities say they will use less fluoride in water after new levels are legally set

Source: Foster | January 13th, 2011 | By Laurenne Ramsdell

DOVER — The federal Department of Health and Human Services has recommended lower fluoride levels in drinking water supplies, but a number of area community officials said they will wait until the new levels are legally set before adhering to the new guidelines.

The federal DHHS recently announced it will recommend the Environmental Protection Agency lower the amount of fluoride to .7 milligrams per liter of water.

In 1962, the government set a standard range for the distribution of fluoride into drinking water supplies, from .7 milligrams to 1.2 milligrams per liter, depending on the climate and water intake of the community using the drinking water.

HHS has now proposed the range be done away with and a universal limit be set at .7 milligrams per liter of water. But while the department has recommended the limit, nothing can be legally set as a standard unless it’s approved by the EPA.

Representatives for Dover, Portsmouth and Durham have responded to the study’s findings by saying they will adhere to any standards once they are officially set.

Doug Steele, the director of public works for the Garrison City, said his department hasn’t received any official information that would give him a reason to consider lowering the level of fluoride they distribute into the city’s drinking water supply.

He did say, however, that if an official source does present the recommendation to his department, the city will consider lowering its use of fluoride.

Deputy Director of Public Works for the city of Portsmouth Dave Allen’s comments were similar to Steele’s. Allen said until the Department of Environmental Services holds a formal conference where changes to fluoride usage are discussed, the Port City will not make any moves to lower their levels until mandated to do so.

Currently, the city distributes 1 milligram of fluoride per liter of drinking water. If HHS’ recommendation does become accepted, Allen noted his department would be willing to adhere to regulations and make adjustments accordingly.

For Durham, Director of Energy and Utilities Jim Dombrosk said he has been watching the development of HHS’ recommendation very closely. Noting he has faith the experts’ findings are accurate and that their actions are necessary, Dombrosk said his department would be willing to adhere to any regulations regarding fluoride that stem from the government’s findings.

On average, the town currently adds 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per liter of drinking water. If the recommendation is approved, Durham would lower its level of fluoride like surrounding communities.

Representatives of Rochester and Rollinsford could not be reached for comment.

The decision to lower fluoride amounts followed the federal DHHS’s review of a governmental study that showed two out of five adolescents have dental problems due to the intake of excessive levels of fluoride.

Fluoride has been used in drinking water supplies across the country for decades as a way to prevent tooth decay.

The study pointed out problems can range from tooth spottiness and streaking to full-out tooth decay. The results also stated that intake of fluoride that is prolonged or excessive may increase the risk of bone abnormalities, brittleness and even fractures.

There are a growing number of critics against the use of high levels of fluoride in drinking water.

Environmental unions and the National Academy of Sciences have strongly recommended the EPA lower the limit of fluoride for communities across the nation. Some cities in the United States have even taken to outlawing the use of fluoride in drinking water, claiming that the effects are more detrimental than beneficial.

Opposing the use of fluoride in drinking water has come from some local communities as well, including Farmington and Somersworth.

The Director of Farmington’s Department of Water and Wastewater, Dale Sprague, said his town doesn’t put fluoride in its drinking water, and he doesn’t see the town ever doing so. He called fluoride in drinking water “unnecessary,” and noted that it hasn’t come up for discussion in the 30 years he’s been actively serving the public works department.

Somersworth’s Director of Public Works, Tom Willis, said his city doesn’t fluoridate the community’s drinking water, as neither the population nor the City Council have shown any desire to pursue doing so. He went on to say that he doesn’t see a citywide desire to implement the use of fluoride in drinking water anytime soon.

According to the Portland Press Herald, communities throughout Maine, meanwhile, have been asked to lower the levels of fluoride that they’re distributing into their public drinking water supplies.

Stemming from the same federal recommendation, the Pine Tree State has been making an effort to comply with the newly proposed standard. On average, Maine communities distribute an average of 1 to 2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of drinking water.