The Maury County Board of Health asked county officials Monday night to support the restoration of fluoride to local water systems.
The health board — chaired by County Mayor Jim Bailey with board members appointed by the county commission — had unanimously approved a resolution on March 27 requesting that Columbia Power and Water Systems restore fluoride to the local water supply.
County Health Department Director Libba Cook presented that resolution Monday night to the county commission’s Health and Safety Committee.
“Extensive scientific research has consistently established and reaffirmed the benefits of fluoridation,” Cook said.
In September 2013, the Columbia Board of Public Utilities, which is appointed by the Columbia City Council, voted 3-2 to remove fluoride from the water system. Currently, CPWS provides water services for the city of Columbia and also sells water to the county. The cities of Spring Hill and Mt. Pleasant have also taken fluoride out of their water.
The health board passed the resolution out of concern for children in the community, Cook said. Typically, those most affected by the removal of fluoridation are low-income families who cannot afford to get fluoride through means other than public water systems, she said.
“Fluoridation is endorsed by every major national and international health and safety organization,” Cook said.
In January, the Tennessee Department of Health sent a letter to local doctors and dentists asking them to push fluoride treatments for Maury County patients in light of the chemical’s removal from the water system. The federal government is also working to increase the number of fluoridated water systems as part of nationwide health initiative and has referred to water fluoridation as one of the “biggest public health successes” of the past half century, Cook said.
CPWS Executive Director Wes Kelley said he has received “mixed” reactions from the community.
“The Board of Public Utilities deliberated on this matter for two months and reviewed 200 pages of documentation both pro and against fluoridation,” Kelley said. “It was a very difficult decision to make.”
Kelley said CPWS has left the fluoridation equipment in place in case the decision is ever reversed.
Health and Environment Committee Chairwoman Linda Whiteside said the county has little authority in requesting the return of fluoridation.
“I know this has been a debate, both pro and con,” she said. “We just don’t have the power to tell CPWS what to do.”
The type of fluoride used in water is a salt compound that hardens tooth enamel and prevents decay. In higher doses, the same fluoride compound used in the water system is also used to treat osteoporosis, according to the American Medical Association. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the fluoridation of water began on a large scale across America in the 1940s when it was found many Americans applying for the military in World War II did not have the minimum six teeth required for service.