The Independence Advisory Board of Health recommended Monday night that the city raise the fluoride level in its water in an effort to fight dental disease.
Mayor Ron Stewart directed Independence City Manager Larry Blick in two weeks to outline the city’s options on the issue.
Blick said those options could include the approval of a fluoride ordinance by the City Council. However, Blick added, the city charter allows for opponents to force a referendum if they gather the signatures of enough residents opposed to fluoridation.
Howard Braby, a physician and chairman of the health advisory board, said fluoridation was “long overdue for the people of Independence.”
The advisory board unanimously recommended that the city increase the fluoridation level to 0.8 parts per million. Independence water already contains fluoride levels ranging from 0.21 to 0.29 parts per million.
The American Dental Association recommends a level between .7 to 1.2 parts per million to prevent tooth decay.
The board chose the 0.8 level to minimize the risk of dental fluorosis, a usually cosmetic disease that causes mottling of permanent teeth when children consume too much fluoride in their diet. Use of fluoride products by young children should be monitored closely, the report said.
Opponents of fluoride filled half the Independence City Council chambers. Throughout Braby’s 35-minute presentation, about 15 audience members held up signs, most of which read “We Have a Right To Water Free of Deadly Fluoride!”
“It’s very disappointing that individuals as well-educated as these people are cannot see the range of information available,” Mary Ann Wilson, an Independence resident opposed to fluoridation, said after Braby’s presentation.
Wilson was one of about 25 people who signed a press release saying that the advisory board had “chosen to cling to 50-year-old rhetoric rather than accept new information, recent findings and current research.”
The health board said a major benefit of fluoridation would be a significant reduction in dental problems for the poor and uninsured, and a smaller reduction in tooth decay for the rest of the population.
About a year ago a group of Independence dentists asked the city’s advisory board to recommend treating Independence water.
In September the City Council directed the board to hold public hearings, allow 10 days for people to file additional comments, then develop its recommendation.
Members said they had collected a large volume of literature on fluoride, interviewed experts and contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The board rejected arguments raised by opponents in public hearings, including that fluoride is toxic and there are health risks associated with low-levels of exposure.
The report indicates that most recent research refutes premises that fluoride contributes to incidences of bone cancer, birth defects or heart disease.
“The amount of fluoride necessary to cause death for a human adult (155-pound man) has been estimated to be 5-10 grams of sodium fluoride, ingested at one time,” the report said.
“This is more than 10,000-20,000 times as much fluoride as is consumed at one time in a single 8-ounce glass of optimally fluoridated water …,” the report added. “After 50 years of research and practical experience, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates fluoridation of community water supplies is both safe and effective.”