For six months after they moved to the Silverado neighborhood in Kyle, Cara Mosier’s two children, then one and two and a half years old, drank city tap water.
That changed abruptly when the family received the city’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, which alerted them to the high levels of fluoride in Kyle’s drinking water supply.
While moderate levels of fluoride have been shown to reduce cavities, too much of the naturally-occurring element can lead to a condition known a fluorosis, which causes unsightly white or brown stains and pitting on children’s teeth. The excess fluoride levels only affect the teeth that are still developing under the gums, and leads to permanent stains on adult teeth.
Children under the age of nine should not drink city tap water, Kyle officials warn city residents in the annual water quality report.
“We had been giving our kids that water for six months,” said Mosier, a former stay-at-home mom, now a web marketing manager. “It was a little disconcerting, especially since it’s not something that’s apparent until their adult teeth come out.”
For decades, Kyle dentists have seen high levels of fluorosis in their patients, thanks to a drinking water well in Gregg-Clarke Park that draws highly-fluoridated water out of the aquifer. Fluoride levels in the city tap water have actually decreased in recent years, as the city has piped in other sources of well and surface water to mix into the total water supply.
Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson said the city is monitoring the fluoride levels and was glad to see they didn’t increase from the year prior.
“Having more fluoride than normal in this area is actually pretty prevalent,” Johnson said. “You won’t find a lot of cities around central Texas that don’t have high fluoride. With our water source, there’s not too much we can do about it.”
Johnson encouraged parents of young children to follow city guidelines, and noted that parents may want to get the water at their home tested for fluoride.
City officials say the water that comes out of the tap of most homes in Kyle actually has fluoride levels far below the maximums shown in the water quality report. Homes that are closest to the affected well in Gregg-Clarke Park typically have higher fluoride levels, while those that are farther away have more moderate rates.
The water testing showed fluoride levels have decreased slightly in the last two years, likely due to the city connecting its wells.
In the report released in the summer of 2008, fluoride levels ranged from 3.29 – 3.3 parts per million (ppm). This year’s report, released in late June, showed the levels at 2.95 – 3.22 ppm. Levels over 2 ppm trigger the automatic warning from the Environmental Protection Agency that children under the age of nine years old should not drink tap water, while long-term consumption of levels higher than 4 ppm may lead to bone damage.
The city of Buda also has some elevated levels in isolated testing, but not high enough to trigger a fluoride alert. Buda’s most recent report had levels ranging from 0.23 – 1.94 ppm, with an average of 0.95. The city of Austin maintains its levels at 0.53 ppm.
Many families such as the Mosiers give their children alternate drinking water, buying or arranging for delivery of bottled water or installing a reverse osmosis filtration system. But that can lead to different set of dental problems. Most bottled water contains little or no fluoride, and dentists suggest giving fluoride supplements to kids who drink bottled water to help prevent cavities. Families can also have their water tested, and then mix filtered and unfiltered water to achieve the correct proportion of fluoride.
Mosier said she would like to see the city address the excess fluoride problem at the level of the city’s water treatment plants, rather than telling residents they need to spend additional money to purchase drinking water for their young children. They also need to do a better job of alerting residents to the problem, she said.
“I feel like at a minimum, when you open your water account with the city of Kyle, they need to tell you up front,” Mosier said.
Testing the Waters
To get your home tap water tested for fluoride, bring a sample of at least 125 milliliters in a clean container to the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. Cost for the testing is $12. Contact the center at 512-245-2329.
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