ALEXANDRIA — The city of Alexandria is considering adding fluoride again to its water supply, although some local residents question whether health hazards might outweigh the benefits of the tooth decay-fighting element.
The issue surfaced during Monday’s City Council meeting when council member Dr. David Steele, a dentist, asked that the city add fluoride to its water, a process that has not been in use for at least a year and likely longer.
“We need to be a first-class city and put fluoride in the water again, period,” Steele told the council. “This is preventative dentistry at its best.”
Alexandria Mayor Ron Richardson suggested the matter be presented to the city’s Board of Works, which is set to meet Dec. 5.
At least one audience member Monday wanted to see more studies conducted before fluoride is applied to the water.
Fluoride has been studied to determine whether it can cause a rare form of cancer known as osteosarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society.
However, the organization also says, “The general consensus among the reviews done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer. However, several of the reviews noted that further studies are needed to clarify the possible link.”
After the Monday meeting, Warren Brown, the city’s economic director and a member of the Alexandria Community Schools Board, encouraged a dialogue on the issue. He said he didn’t deny health benefits associated with fluoride but wanted to be sure the city had solid footing to add it to the water supply.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element found in water but usually not in amounts large enough to prevent tooth decay. The Indiana State Department of Health says there is no significant difference between water that naturally contains fluoride ions and water that has been purposely fortified with fluoride ions for the reduction of tooth decay.
Water fluoridation reduces tooth decay in children by 40-70 percent and in adults by 40-60 percent, the health department says.
Community water fluoridation is recommended by nearly all public health, medical and dental organizations, including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Public Health Service and World Health Organization.
The state of Indiana does not mandate fluoridation of water supplies.
According to the state, many Hoosier water utilities serve water naturally fluoridated at the optimum level, including Elwood, Fairmount, Orestes and Summitville. Fluoride is considered a cost-efficient way of reaching entire populations.
Steele added, “Fluoride is cheap, cheap, cheap, but it does a lot of good and saves a lot of money and a lot of pain.”