ERIE — This town of 16,000 is one of just a few remaining communities in Colorado that doesn’t fluoridate its water supply, but that could change next spring when Erie residents head to the polls.
Elected leaders are set to vote tonight on a resolution that would place a water-fluoridation measure on the town’s April 1 ballot.
Trustee Tom Van Lone said he thinks the resolution will pass, leaving the ultimate decision on whether Erie adds fluoride to its tap water up to voters.
“I am not a dentist,” Van Lone said Monday. “And if it’s one of those things where I don’t have a black-and-white decision on it, let the citizens decide. It’s the only way it’s going to get settled.”
Fluoridated drinking water, while promoted widely throughout the country as an effective tool in the fight against tooth decay, has not been an easy sell in Erie.
Despite the fact that nearly all major municipalities on the Front Range fluoridate their water, the Board of Trustees voted against adding the compound to Erie’s water in 2001 after the proposal touched off a firestorm of opposition.
And just nine months ago, Mayor Andrew Moore found that only 25 percent of respondents to a survey he sent to some residents identified fluoridation as a goal the town should pursue.
But Moore said it’s important that all voters get a chance to make a choice on the issue.
Fluoridation opponents claim that not only is adding fluoride to drinking water unnecessary, it’s potentially dangerous.
The Canton, N.Y.-based Fluoride Action Network claims that ingesting fluoride yields little dental benefit and may result in a litany of health problems, including bone fracture, bone cancer, joint pain, reduced thyroid activity and IQ deficits.
Michael Connett, a spokesman for the organization, said most of Western Europe has rejected fluoridation but has no worse a rate of tooth decay than the United States.
“With the abundance of fluoride products we have in toothpaste, supplements and processed foods, there’s no need to put it in our water,” Connett said.
But advocates of the practice reject the claims of anti-fluoridation groups as unfounded and alarmist.
Dr. Mitchell Friedman, who owns Lafayette Dental Excellence and has been a dentist for nearly 30 years, said fluoridating water makes an “enormous” difference in reducing the cavity rate.
Friedman, who has nearly 500 patients from Erie at his practice, adamantly backs the measure.
“It’s not harmful to anybody’s health, and it’s not carcinogenic,” he said. “There’s no scientific evidence to support that.”