The Larimer County Board of Health “strongly” recommended Fort Collins continue fluoridating its tap water in the latest installment of a two-year debate marked by anxieties over public health.
The board’s five-page consensus findings released Thursday now go to the City Council, which could remove the liquid form of fluoride known as hydrofluorosilicic acid, or HFS, from city water.
Proponents say the substance is a proven and cost-effective cavity fighter. But naysayers note HFS is a byproduct of the fertilizer industry and carries health risks such as skeletal fluorosis, lead poisoning and cancer.
Members of the health board, some drinking bottled water during the meeting, found that fears surrounding HFS are overstated.
“The weight of more than 50 years of scientific evidence indicates that community water fluoridation, when maintained within the known safety limits, is both safe and effective in improving dental health and has not been shown to cause any significant deleterious health effects,” a revised draft of the document stated.
The document was expected to be signed late Thursday night by the four members of the five-person board who were present — J. Joseph Marr, Frank Vertucci, Jane Higgins and Teri B. Olson. Member Blair Trautwein was absent.
In indicating support for fluoridation, the board used much of the same scientific literature reviewed by the council-appointed Fluoride Technical Study Group, which found fluoride to be beneficial.
However, on the urging of Vertucci, the board also cited new evidence recently provided by the Environmental Protection Agency showing a negligible occurrence of a potentially harmful ion in fluoridated water.
A person would “have to drink 10 billion liters of water to be exposed,” the document stated.
That fact was among several used in dismissing a Dartmouth College study by Roger Masters and Myron Coplan, which HFS opponents often cite as evidence of a link between water fluoridation and lead poisoning.
Marr resisted inclusion of the EPA data because it was not considered by the technical study group, but Vertucci insisted the information needed to be “documented somewhere.”
Pati Caputto, a certified nutritionist and member of Fluoride Facts, a group hoping to convince the council to remove HFS, was disappointed by the board’s findings.
“They still are not able to say that (HFS) is completely safe,” she said. “It’s harmful to babies. There’s a huge whitewash going on here. … If it harms one person, it should be found unsafe.”
The document acknowledged a “small risk in babies of dental fluorosis, a cosmetic rather than a health risk.” It also recommended the city consider “using the lower end of the accepted range of fluoride in the water. ”
The Fort Collins Water Board is expected to make its recommendation on fluoridation to the council next week. That board could consider other factors, such as the safety of workers, Chairman Tom Sanders said.