A handful of antifluoride crusaders were smiling Thursday after the Fort Collins Water Board recommended the city eliminate the proven cavity-fighter from its water.

The recommendation is a departure from the advice of two county health boards that weighed in on the controversial issue earlier this month but is the same advice the board offered two years ago.

“Now we’ve got to flood the mayor and City Council with calls on taking it out of the water so they know how the public’s feeling,” Mary Parker, a Fort Collins resident opposed to fluoridated water, said after the meeting.

Water Board member Bill Fischer, who joined Rami Naddy on the losing side of the vote, failed to sway the nine other members to support continued fluoridation.

“The weight of evidence,” he said, indicated the risks of fluoridated water are minimal. He added that fluoride is “suitable, economical, reliable and cost-effective” in reducing cavities.

But the other concerns of board members won out.

Several said if tap water containing the liquid form of fluoride — hydrofluorosilicic acid, or HFS — harmed just a few consumers during their lives, that should outweigh any benefits.

Chairman Tom Sanders noted fluoride could, if ingested, pose risks to infants younger than 6 months old.

He added that HFS, a byproduct of the fertilizer industry, is hazardous to the utility workers who handle it.

The City Council will be next to grapple with the issue that has been marked by contention about the significance of scientific evidence cited in a 198-page consensus report released in February by the city’s fluoride Technical Study Group. The report found fluoridated water to be an effective cavity-fighter that does not pose a significant risk for cancer or skeletal fluorosis, a crippling bone disease.

Not all members of the City Council, which probably will take up the debate in May, have publicly stated where they stand on fluoridation.

Councilman David Roy favors removing fluoride from city water, according to a questionnaire he returned to the Coloradoan prior to the April 8 election.

Mayor Ray Martinez and Councilman Kurt Kastein in their questionnaires said they were awaiting recommendations and mulling the evidence presented in the report.

Councilwoman Karen Weitkunat has said fluoridation of water should continue but the matter should “eventually” be posed to voters in a referendum.

In April 2001, the Water Board recommended fluoridation be discontinued while reviewing an expenditure proposal that found HFS created the need for $500,000 in equipment upgrades.

Water Board member David Lauer said the city could save those funds and $100,000 a year in materials and labor if fluoride is eliminated from water.

Noting that fluoridated water is especially beneficial in reducing cavities in low-income areas, he suggested that if the council decides to remove HFS from water, it could use a portion of the savings to create a clinic or program that promotes dental health.

The Water Board’s recommendation, which will come in the form of a letter from Sanders, will be added to two recommendations in favor of fluoridation — the April 17 recommendation of the Larimer County Board of Health and Tuesday’s recommendation by the Health District of Northern Larimer County’s Board of Directors.

The health district’s board, after studying the issue independent of the Technical Study Group’s research, “strongly” supports the use of fluoride as the “most cost-effective fluoride delivery system” for the prevention of cavities and found the “negative side effects to fluoridation are both minimal and acceptable.”