ORMOND BEACH — Commissioner Troy Kent just wants to know if fluoride and other chemicals going into the city’s water are safe and effective.
But no one seems willing to give him an answer.
“That’s not good enough,” he said.
Fluoride has long been at the center of controversy with sides arguing whether it should be an additive in public drinking supplies. Supporters of the chemical say it can be attributed to a noticeable drop in tooth decay while others say people are drinking it to their detriment.
Kent says he’s not convinced either way.
“I’m not for fluoride or against it,” he said.
Ormond Beach is one of many municipalities across the nation that add a form of fluoride into the public water supply, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has been doing so since 1961.
In addition to Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, DeLand, Holly Hill, Ponce Inlet, Port Orange and South Daytona all fluoridate their water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2008
No municipality in Flagler County provides fluoride in its water, according to the CDC.
Kent said his level of concern about fluoride has been raised in recent years after the American Dental Association, a strong supporter of fluoridated water, issued an advisory that non-fluoridated water be used in baby formula and federal officials recommended lowering the optimum level required in drinking water.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed lowering the amount of fluoride in drinking water to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The previous range — 0.7-1.2 mg/L — was set by the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Water Standards, which based the scale on the climate people live in and amount of water they would consume, such as Maine compared to Florida.
In hopes of getting some answers, Kent mailed a letter to Harcros Chemicals Inc., the city’s current fluoride provider, as well as more than 40 suppliers throughout North America who could possibly provide chemical additives for Ormond Beach, asking that they provide a list of chemicals they use. He also asked the companies to issue a declaratory statement that hydrofluorosilicic acid, the current form of fluoride the city uses, is safe for human consumption and would effectively prevent tooth decay.
By Friday, only one company had responded, but did not provide information sought by Commissioner Kent.
“I’m completely disappointed with the non-response,” he said at the City Commission’s July 3 meeting. “They ignored the entire request.”
A message left at Harcros’ Tampa location was not returned Friday.
The lack of response prompted the City Commission to hold off on buying next year’s batch of water additives until questions can be answered.
“I’m in the chain of command,” Kent said. “I’m partially responsible for what is put in our water supply.”
BENEFIT V. RISK
In 1991, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted an in-depth review of fluoride, which has been injected into public drinking supplies since the 1940s.
While one study found rats who were dosed with fluoride were somewhat likely to develop tumors, several expert panels found “no credible evidence” that fluoride causes human cancer.
The study also debunked myths that fluoridation of water has led to an increase in bone fractures and dental fluorosis, a condition in which a person’s tooth enamel is damaged through over-fluoridation.
Health officials also noted that when fluoridation of water initially began in the 1940s, there was about a 60 percent decrease in tooth decay compared to those living in non-fluoridated areas.
Since then, those living in non-fluoridated areas have caught up, likely due to fluoride being added to many products today such as toothpaste, mouthwash, food, breakfast cereal and even soda, the study noted.
Fluoride Action Network, though, claims fluoride can have devastating effects on the human body if ingested at high levels.
In 2002, 23 people in Dublin, Calif., were sickened when a fluoridation equipment malfunction produced high levels of the chemical at a business, according to the network’s website. In 1992, excess fluoride in two water systems serving an Alaska village led to 296 people suffering from acute fluoride poisoning; one died.
Linda Orgain, spokeswoman for CDC, said there is no reason to believe fluoridated water, if regulated, is dangerous. She explained that many fluorosis cases are associated with children either swallowing toothpaste or receiving a strong dose of antibiotics at an early age. Any cases are mild at best and go undetected, she said.
She said the agency used a majority of studies – not just one – to develop its stance concerning water fluoridation.
“None of these reviews has found that community water fluoridation – the very small levels used to prevent tooth decay – is a concern for people’s health,” she said. “We do know that fluoridation, even in today’s environment with other sources of fluoride, prevents about 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults across the lifespan.”
Fred Costello, a dentist and the city’s former mayor who is now running for Congress, said science has shown topical fluoride does indeed prevent tooth decay.
“I will go with the science,” he said.
But he said he would agree with whatever the commission decides.
“I would love to have one less controversy,” he said. “If it did not increase tooth decay, then it might not be a problem taking fluoride out of the water.”
IS IT NEEDED?
As a whole, the chemicals would be purchased through a cooperative bid and cost about $630,000, according to a memo from Dave Ponitz, Ormond’s utilities manager, to City Manager Joyce Shanahan. The city must have all bids by Aug. 9.
Commissioner Bill Partington said it is particularly frustrating that none of the companies have responded to the city, but he’s not surprised.
“Companies have that kind of attitude that they don’t have to respond if they don’t want to,” he said.
One representative for Iowa-based ACCO Unlimited Corp., who recalled receiving Kent’s correspondence, left a message with a News-Journal reporter saying she had discarded the letter and did not plan to respond.
Ponitz said he couldn’t answer whether taking fluoride out of the water would have an adverse health effect on people.
But he was sure of one thing.
“You don’t have to have fluoride in water to make it safe,” he said.
Kent said he is concerned about other chemicals going into the city’s water as well. In the meantime, though, Kent said he’ll continue to wait for an answer on fluoride.
“I prefer to have it in writing,” he told Ponitz at the July 3 meeting to tell the chemical company. “I don’t want a phone call.”