Randy Weiner wants Boulder to stop adding fluoride to its water supply.

Helping some people keep their whites pearly isn’t enough of a reason to keep adding an environmental toxin without people’s permission, said Weiner, an environmental lawyer who sits on Boulder’s volunteer Environmental Advisory Board.

Although most people associate fluoride with good dentistry, it’s also a byproduct of mining and other industrial applications. Weiner said adding it to the water supply simply doesn’t make sense.

“It’s a waste product from the phosphate industry,” he said. “The question is why add a substance to the pure water supply when there are questions about whether it’s harmful?”

Many argue that exposing city residents to a drug without their permission isn’t ethical. Some studies have suggested a link between excessive fluoride consumption and skeletal damage.

Dentists hotly dispute those findings, however. The argument rages on the Internet on sites such as fluoridedebate.com.

But it doesn’t look like Boulder’s ready to stop the practice, which began in the 1960s. Weiner and other environmental board members asked the Water Resources Advisory Board, another volunteer body, to examine the issue.

At least for now, the water board isn’t biting, chairwoman Jeannette Hillery said.

Hillery said the reason is simple: The benefits outweigh the risks.

“We’re trying to be responsible, but we’ve never seen that there’s been a problem,” she said. “I think we would all be out there trying to find out if we ever heard it was an issue.”

Hillery said there is some evidence that some people with chemical sensitivities may be hurt by fluoride. But it’s a small number of people, she said, especially compared with the population of people with spotty access to dental care whom fluoride has made healthier.

“The number of people, particularly poor children, that it has helped has really been beneficial,” she said.

She noted that Fort Collins seriously considered dropping fluoride use a couple of years ago but decided not to after reaching the same conclusion.

Randy Kluender, a dean at the University of Colorado Health Science Center’s school of dentistry, said cities across the country seem to consider the anti-fluoride issue in waves. He said he and other dentists fight it whenever it comes up.

“This is one of the cheapest and most effective ways we have to treat tooth decay, which is the most common childhood illness,” he said.

While the Water Resources Advisory Board has declined to take up the fluoride issue, the Environmental Advisory Board might, Weiner said. If the board found fluoride harmful, its members could advise the City Council to stop the practice.


Contact Camera Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at (303) 473-1333 or morganr@dailycamera.com.