GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Grand Rapids was the first city in the country to add fluoride to its drinking water in an attempt to fight tooth decay.
Seventy-five years later, the West Michigan city is being recognized for its leadership in the matter. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has designated Saturday, Jan. 25 as Community Water Fluoridation 75th Anniversary Day in Michigan.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss presented a proclamation of her own to James Hurt, the city’s director of public services, during the Tuesday, Jan. 21 morning city commission meeting at City Hall.
“Seventy-five years ago we took a chance of putting fluoride in our water and we continue to do things today to be a leader in many aspects of our utilities,” Hurt said. “This a great day to recognize Grand Rapids as a leader and 75 years fluoridating our water.”
Grand Rapids began fluoridating its water in 1945, acting on research that began in Colorado in the 1930s. The practice is credited with reducing tooth decay by 50-60 percent in the United States, according to the American Dental Association.
Fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to the water supply so the level reaches approximately 0.7 miligrams of fluoride per liter of water. The practice became a U.S. Public Health Service policy in 1951 and was widely used across the country by 1960, resulting in further decreases in tooth decay.
Fluoridation costs about 72 cents per person, per year, according to the American Water Works Association. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every $1 invested by cities in fluoridation saves approximately $40 in dental treatment costs.
The CDC has praised fluoridation as one of the 10 “great public health achievements of the 20th century.”