ERIE – The Colorado Department of Health and Environment isn’t smiling over Erie’s decision not to fluoridate the town’s drinking water.
Town trustees voted 5-2 late Tuesday to not add fluoride to Erie’s water supply despite its use by every other major Boulder County community.
Fluoride has been proven to prevent cavities, but too much of the substance can be toxic, especially to children, who can develop a defect in tooth enamel.
It has also been proven to cause controversy, pitting those who follow conventional wisdom against those who don’t want government forcing “medication” down throats and still others who say fluoride shouldn’t be added because it is in many other foods.
After vocal opposition outweighed vocal support, Erie trustees said they would rather have fluoride proponents petition and place the issue on a ballot than vote the tooth-strengthening element into the water themselves.
The decision was despite results of a town survey last month that showed residents support adding fluoride to their water source by a margin of 2 to 1, or 547 to 273.
“I hate to pass the buck, but there’s no extremely clear need,” said Mayor Tom Van Lone, who along with Trustee Steve Skapyak supported adding fluoride and voted against the motion. “People are very emotional about not doing it.”
Old Town resident Marla Chughtai started an e-mail campaign against fluoride and said she and others would have sued the town if the substance was added. She said she has seen studies linking Alzheimer’s disease to fluoride.
“It’s proven fluoride lowers your IQ,” Chughtai said. “Self-treatment is good, but the town cannot and should not dictate medication without a person’s permission, and that’s what they’d be doing if they put fluoride in the water.”
Diane Brunson, director of oral health for the state health department, said fluoridation of water sources has been listed as one of the top 10 public health achievements by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Public Health Service. She said fluoride in water is the best way to get it.
“It’s a mistake to not fluoridate a community water supply,” Brunson said. “This is not just a cosmetic thing, this is health. The bacteria that causes tooth decay is definitely linked to chronic diseases, particularly diabetes.”
She went on to dispute Chughtai’s reports. “With all the studies that have been done, fluoridation is the most studied than any other public health measure, and there have been no adverse health effects found in studies that are replicable,” Brunson said.
Erie officials were surprised when they surveyed almost 30 public works departments and found that Berthoud, Boulder, Brighton, Fort Collins and Longmont were among those that add fluoride but don’t recommend it. Their reasons included operational problems with dosing; overdosing, which led them to pump out entire wells and waste water; and, in Boulder, a desire from some residents to vote on the issue.
Left Hand Water District and the Boulder County Health Department were the only two entities surveyed that recommended adding fluoride.
Fluoride was first added to water in 1945 in the United States. Some exists naturally in most water.
The state health department estimates that 81 percent of Coloradans are given the optimal level of fluoride in their drinking water. The level recommended in Colorado is about one milligram of fluoride per liter of water.
About 500,000 people in Colorado do not have enough fluoride in their water, according to the health department.