If Mebane follows the lead of Graham, drinking water both municipalities draw upon will no longer be fluoridated.
Graham’s city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to discontinue adding fluoride to the Graham-Mebane Lake water supply, contingent on their partner-city’s action.
The decision came after the council heard a presentation from its utilities director, Victor Quick, who presented an argument for discontinuing the addition of the chemical to the water supply.
“Back in the 1970s, it was a selling point,” Quick said. Fluoride has been a topic of controversy since the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was also linked to communist plots to undermine public health through its introduction into the water supply.
Today, Quick said, fluoride is being linked to some cancers and other health ills, “according to the research you believe.” Although fluoride is not mandated for use, Quick said many cities in the U.S. use it and some are beginning to question its need.
“Today we have so many products for dental care with fluoride in it,” he said. While “I don’t know the answer,” Quick said he has done some research and talked with other professionals in the field of water treatment and believes the time has come to discontinue its use. He said fluoride is “one of the most dangerous products” used at the water treatment plant. Workers wear special suits and masks when dealing with the product.
Mayor Jerry Peterman said he has seen the chemical room at the plant and fluoride “eats stainless steel.” Quick said it also “etches glass.” Quick said fluoride is a by-product of the fertilizer industry.
In a written report to the council, Quick noted “numerous studies have shown a potential increase in bone cancer and weakened bones as the result of ingestion of fluoride. Studies have also revealed a link between fluoride and symptoms of stomach pain and indigestion problems among certain individuals.” Fluoride is also an ingredient in table salt.
Quick said fluoride-using cities have to follow certain standards. Over the years, on changing recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the city has altered its fluoride levels from 4 milligrams per liter to .7 today.
Discontinuing the fluoridation program would result in an operational savings of about $12,000 to $14,000 per year, Quick said. But, he emphasized, his recommendations to discontinue its use is not a money-saving move but one of health.
“The plant staff believes the addition of fluoride to our public water supply is unnecessary. Staff believes fluoride should be applied directly to the teeth as opposed to ingestion” from the water. “Fluoride toothpaste is a much safer and cost effective way to reduce tooth decay.”
Since Mebane is a partner with Graham in the lake operation, its council must also go on board with the recommendation.
“What if we vote (to discontinue) and Mebane doesn’t?” asked Councilman Lee Kimrey.
Quick said both cities would have to be on board, but he said he felt it would be welcomed by the residents there, saying he had “heard it through the grapevine” that Mebane water users had been more vocal about questioning the use of the chemical in their drinking water.
Quick also added that fluoride is contained in natural trace amounts in the water. “We have been adding to it.”
Quick said he plans to address the Mebane council at its next meeting. He said the treatment plant has about a month or two of fluoride left in inventory.