Back in 2010, the Loveland Water Department consciously made a choice which compromised the public health of the community, deprived a cohort of young children of a lifetime preventive-health benefit, and cost city residents millions in avoidable health-care costs.
When the department began construction on “Filter Plant 2,” it turned off its fluoridation capability. It was off for almost two and a half years, and after construction was completed, it was resumed, but only at about half the levels as before.
Why does this matter? Well, fluoridation is a public-health measure that adjusts the amount of fluorine ions in municipal drinking water so that citizens get an optimal amount of this nutrient. Fluoride is a common earth mineral that is found in all ground water; humans evolved a need for fluoride to help us have strong bones and teeth. Studies have found the fluoridation provides a unique protection that can reduce cavities by an additional 20-40 percent over and above the use of dental hygiene and other forms of fluoride.
This adds up to huge savings for Lovelanders. It means that every year, one-third of our community avoids a needless cavity and the pain, suffering, and extra trip to the dentist that goes with it. One study finds that it takes a minimum of $2,000 to maintain over a lifetime a tooth that has been compromised by a cavity. Another study found that for every $100 spent on fluoridation, citizens are saved $3,800 in dental bills. With tooth decay being the most prevalent disease in the USA today, Lovelanders can’t afford to forgo this, especially when fluoridation is so cheap, costing less than a tube of toothpaste per person each year. Fluoridation is clearly one of the best investments ever.
The city could have made provision so that fluoridation could have continued uninterrupted at healthful levels for the community, but it decided instead that the cost of doing so would be “prohibitive.” Its decision was made without consulting public-health experts, or even health and dental authorities as required by City Council. In short, it was making a decision affecting the entire health of the entire community, but deciding it on budgetary and management considerations.
The decision was done silently and without general public knowledge. There is no evidence that even the city utilities commission, the city manager, or the city council were apprised of this decision. Loveland’s citizenry certainly was not informed; for four years, they were allowed to think that they were receiving a vital service when they weren’t.
Worse, if Lovelanders had known, they might have taken some measures (such as fluoride rinses at the dentist) to mitigate the problem. As it is, however, every Loveland child under the age of 8 faces the prospect of twice the number of cavities over their lifetime than they might have. Adolescents, adults and the elderly in Loveland surely have suffered through more dental problems than they should have. And I estimate that Loveland pocketbooks are more than $4 million thinner.
Now that the problems created have come to light, the Loveland Utilities Commission will be holding a public hearing 4 p.m. Tuesday (Loveland Police and Courts Building, 810 E. 10th St.) on how to keep this vital health benefit flowing in Loveland. City staff says they have never received any public input in support of fluoridation.
Tuesday will be an opportunity to change that.
Larry Sarner is a Loveland resident.