The Fairbanks City Council thanked the Fluoride Task Force on Monday for a year of researching the health effects of fluoridating public water. About 10 residents showed up to support the recommendation to eliminate the fluoride program.
“We opted for an approach we felt provided the most protection for at-risk subpopulations and allows the rest of the community to decide what to do to make up for lost fluoride, if they feel that’s important,” said Chairman Paul Reichardt in a presentation to the council.
A city law has required the utility to add fluoride to the water since the 1960s. The main risk of too much fluoride is fluorosis, or splotchy teeth.
Local water has natural fluoride levels of 0.3 parts per million, and city utilities increase that to 0.7 ppm.
“We just really didn’t find sufficient data to make the case that public water with 0.7 ppm provides better (cavity) prevention than one with 0.3 ppm,” he said.
Now the City Council can decide whether to remove it, leave it or let voters decide. Most council members said they would like to determine the issue by ordinance but did not promise how they would vote.
“I’m sort of leaning toward taking out the fluoride,” said Councilman Bernard Gatewood. “Despite that, the World Health Organization has declared fluoridated water one of the Top 10 health achievements of the 20th century.”
Councilwoman Vivian Stiver said she would vote to terminate fluoridation because it’s widely available in toothpaste and other forms.
“It’s everywhere. I’m very comfortable having us take it out,” she said.
Reichardt presented the reasoning behind four recommendations: that the city stop adding fluoride, that the borough weigh in on the decision and that the public and schools be better informed of the health implications of fluoride.
“I for one may not have supported recommendation No. 1, the one to end supplemental fluoridation of water, without recommendations two, three and four,” he said.
The panel found that about 25 percent of city water drinkers live outside city limits. City Mayor Jerry Cleworth said he plans to consult with the borough before voting on it.