Fluoride Action Network

Keizer: Setting lower fluoride levels will save city money

Source: Statesman Journal | January 26th, 2011 | By Jillian Daley
Location: United States, Oregon

A recent federal government announcement about fluoridation has prompted immediate change in Keizer.

And the decision could lead to a slim monetary benefit for Keizer residents in the future.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discussed new standards and guidelines in water fluoridation this month.

Keizer public works immediately began adjusted its fluoridation rates, said Bill Lawyer, public works superintendent.

The change could save Keizer a small, undetermined amount of money because the city will not need to buy as much fluoride. Water bills likely will not decrease, but the drop in costs may make a future water rate increase a tad smaller, Lawyer said. It’s too soon to tell.

The organizations announced Jan. 7 that research shows the benefits of fluoride changed little after a certain level, 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. And, the instances of children with fluorosis increased as concentration rose. Fluorosis usually is a cosmetic issue involving spotting on teeth. In more severe cases, fluorosis can pock teeth, and, in rare cases, it can lead to bone pain.

Also, Americans have more access to fluoride than they did when fluoridation was introduced in the 1940s as a low-cost way to fight cavities. Fluoride now comes in pills, toothpaste and mouthwash. So, less fluoride is needed in the water.

Keizer began complying with the new guideline immediately after hearing the announcement because it came from upper level agencies and had the support of major groups such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lawyer said.

The U.S. government’s standard since 1962 has been between 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water.

Keizer expects to be able to keep levels within a range of 0.6-0.75 milligrams per liter.

In the 2010-11 budget, public works has $1,094,500 in operating costs, and $15,000 of that is to buy fluoride.

“It’s definitely going to cost us less for the product, but what that percentage is and how much it will save us, only time will tell,” Lawyer said.

Even after the city is able to tabulate the effect on costs, Lawyer said: “I wouldn’t expect the cost savings of the product would relay to any significant cost savings in their (customers’) water rates.”

But, such a change could mean a future rate increase would be, perhaps, one-tenth of a percentage point smaller, Lawyer said.

Either way, Richard Walsh is pleased with the announcement. Walsh made an effort to lower levels of fluoride in water during the final months of his last term as a Keizer city councilor last year. Walsh asked the rest of the council not to outfit new pumps with injection systems that would add fluoride to the water, decreasing the fluoride levels. He had intended to save the city money on equipment, and his research indicated fluoride can have negative side effects.

The city chose to go forward with the changes to the injection systems as they already were budgeted for them and the city was meeting recommended fluoride levels.

“I do feel a little bit justified, a little bit vindicated,” Walsh said.