Nearly eight months after the city’s water board unanimously recommended that Fort Collins stop fluoridating its water supply, a nine-member study group is in place to help sort through the pros and cons and science of fluoridation.
The “technical study” group includes individuals on both sides of the issue, as well as technical expertise in the areas of toxicology, epidemiology, dentistry, medicine, public health risk assessment, water quality and treatment options, city utilities spokeswoman Patty Bigner said.
The group will sift through the volumes of scientific research on the issue, including public policy decisions made in other communities, Bigner said. The group is expected to present its findings to the Larimer County board of health and the water board sometime this fall, she said.
The two boards will then make recommendations to the City Council, which will have the final decision on whether fluoridation will continue.
“We’re looking for an evidence-based decision,” Bigner said. “We want the public to feel confident in our process.”
Bigner is trying to get minutes of the group’s meetings, its schedule and copies of studies it’s reviewing posted on the city’s Web site with links to the Poudre Health Services District’s and Larimer County Department of Health and Environment’s Web sites.
The water board studied fluoridation in April while reviewing a $500,000 proposal to update equipment and facilities to continue fluoridating city water. In addition to the upgrades, it would cost an additional $100,000 a year to keep the program running.
The water board, which advises the City Council, concluded that the city should stop its 30-year practice of fluoridation.
The board said the money could be better spent, fluoride was available through a variety of food sources and that the public water supply was an inappropriate mechanism to deliver fluoride.
But the City Council returned the board’s recommendation, calling for further study, input from public health officials and community outreach.
The technical study group is a direct response to that request, Bigner said.
Group members contacted Wednesday were enthusiastic about their role in the decision-making process and promised to look carefully at all the data.
“The issues that are raised could potentially have a large impact on children growing up in our community, particularly those who don’t have access to other sources of fluoride,” said Dr. Bruce Cooper, medical director of the Poudre Health Services District. “It raises some interesting philosophical questions regarding the balance of what we do to impact health and what we consider in the realm of personal responsibility.”
Although most public health organizations support fluoridation, the goal of public health is to move from intervention to prevention, Cooper said. It’s important to look at changes in technology to see if other fluoride-delivery methods might be more appropriate, he said.
Gale McGaha Miller, Fort Collins water quality services manager, was on the city’s utilities staff when the board made its recommendations. She said the issues involved are complex with seemingly no clear or easy answers.
“A lot of communities are watching us,” Miller said. “It’s a big issue with a lot of different facets. You can’t just look at one piece of it.”