The city has stopped treating its water with fluoride in the wake of what one official described as a “major shortage” of the chemical throughout the country.
One of the largest suppliers of hydrofluosilicic acid, commonly known as fluoride, went out of business last year, Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said. That sent utilities officials across the state scrambling to find a new source of the chemical, he said.
“The remaining suppliers are primarily producing a product that is not adaptable for administration into water without a major investment,” DiGiovanni wrote in a letter last month to County Administrator Richard Wesch.
After talking with other utilities officials about the problems that Inverness was encountering, DiGiovanni said, the city decided to stop fluoridation.
“We stepped back and realized that this is a very different society than it was in the ’80s when the city of Inverness started administering fluoride,” he said.
Now, he said, fluoride is available in rinses, toothpaste and dental floss, and adding it to the water supply is no longer necessary.
DiGiovanni said he wrote to the school system, dentists, Citrus Memorial Health System and the county administrator to notify them of the change.
The city has close to 4,000 water customers, DiGiovanni said. But the number of people affected is significantly greater because those customers include all of the city’s schools and businesses and Citrus Memorial.
“This is a proactive thing, a public notice. (Fluoride) doesn’t hurt anybody having it in. It doesn’t hurt anybody taking it out,” DiGiovanni said.
After sending the letter, DiGiovanni said, he was contacted by officials from the Citrus County Health Department, who have offered to help the city find alternative reliable sources of fluoride. If it can, he said, the city will fluoridate again.
Fluoride was introduced to municipal drinking water supplies in Florida more than 60 years ago. Inverness started the practice in 1987.
The process has long been endorsed by many dentists as a simple way to prevent tooth decay.
“Fluoride was one of the best public health measures that they ever came up with. . . . Why they would want to take it out, I have no idea,” said Dr. Ronald J. Fagan, an Inverness dentist. “Maybe they’re trying to drum up business for me or something.”
Citrus County’s utility does not fluoridate the drinking water, according to the county Web site.
Crystal River still treats its water supply with fluoride, said Gayle Cunningham, the city’s finance operations supervisor.
She said city officials had not discussed changing the system or mentioned a shortage.
“I haven’t heard of any problems,” Cunningham said.
For years, Crystal River officials debated whether to add the chemical to the city’s water supply. After a straw poll showed that a majority of residents favored fluoridation, the city started adding the chemical in 1996.
Former Crystal River Mayor Curtis Rich, who staunchly opposed the move when he was in office, said Monday that he remained opposed to the “highly toxic” chemical. Inverness was wise to get rid of it, he said, and Crystal River should follow suit.
“I do not drink it in our water here. . . . I’m 77 years old. I’ve still got my original teeth. They’re all in good shape and very sound,” he said. “I’ve never given fluoride any credit for them staying that way.”
Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report. Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 860-7309.