A press release summarizing a lengthy report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) said, for starters, that the current allowable level of fluoride in tap water should be decreased.
The NAS study said children exposed to drinking water with the current Environmental Protection Agency limit of four milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L) of water are at increased risk for tooth enamel fluorosis.
The condition is characterized by discoloration and weakening of tooth enamel, and the study said “recent data” suggests just more than 200,000 Americans have drinking water sources containing fluoride at four mg/L or higher.
Also, a “majority of the committee” said people who, over the course of a lifetime, consume water containing the EPA maximum limit of fluoride are at increased risk for bone fractures.
The City of Boulder fluoridates its drinking water to roughly 0.9 parts per million (ppm), according to information on the city’s Utilities department Web site. The level is below the current EPA limit and is in accordance with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recommendations, according to the city.
Ned Williams, Boulder’s director of public works for utilities, said in a previous Daily interview that city voters approved fluoridating the water at one part per million in 1969, and that it would take a city election to reduce levels or eliminate fluoridation.
City voters could get a chance to vote on setting standards for water additives in 2006, although a petition soon to be circulated does not yet have the word “fluoride” listed in it.
Randall Weiner, a local environmental attorney, and a group known as Clean Water Advocates of Boulder (CWA), could be starting the petition drive as soon as this weekend, according to Weiner.
The ordinance language would direct the city not to use any water additive at Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) greater than EPA standards, and Weiner has said one of his concerns is with the city’s use of hydrofluorosilicic acid (HSF) to fluoridate the water.
The city obtains the product from Lucier Chemical Industries in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and Weiner has said he’s concerned about small amounts of heavy metals, such as lead, typically found in the solution.
And he said Wednesday that the NAS report on fluoride in general is worth closer examination.
“Science is constantly updating whether additives and chemicals are safe, and this report shows that what we’ve been putting in our water for 35 years may be unsafe,” said Weiner.
But Kenneth Wilson, vice chair of the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board (WRAB), said the NAS report merits careful study before anybody rushes to conclusions.
Wilson said Weiner and CWA group members have approached WRAB in the past, but Wilson said he wanted to wait until the NAS release to take formal action if necessary.
“The report, hopefully, will give us some real science to evaluate the issue with,” said Wilson. “It’s a very lengthy report, it will take a little time to digest it, and then we’ll see if we think any change is warranted.”
Wilson said it’s possible that WRAB could put discussion of the NAS report on its May meeting agenda, and said the board specifically would need to consider possible benefits or risks of fluoridation at given concentrations.
“There are obvious and long-term proven benefits of using fluoride, in terms of fewer cavities and also some strengthening of bones,” said Wilson. “But at high levels, there is some concern.”
Weiner said Dr. Pierre Brunschwig, a family physician, has joined other professionals in the CWA cause, and said the NAS study release will increase local interest in reexamining water additives.
“For us, it only galvanizes our efforts,” said Weiner.