Q: The Richmond Department of Public Utilities sent notice that it had reduced fluoride in drinking water based on new federal recommendations. Why the change?
A: Richmond lowered fluoride levels in drinking water from 0.9 milligrams per liter of water to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water, based on a proposed federal recommendation.
The change in Richmond went into effect March 1. The city water utility serves customers in Richmond and has contracts to provide water to parts of Henrico, Chesterfield and Goochland counties, said city utilities spokeswoman Angela Fountain.
In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it planned to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was evaluating what should be the maximum allowed level of fluoride in water before water systems have to notify customers of elevated fluoride levels that pose a health risk.
With so many other sources of fluoride — toothpastes, mouth rinses and dental treatments — Health and Human Services officials feel there is a risk that children may be getting too much fluoride, which can cause staining and pitting of the teeth, a condition called dental fluorosis.
The health agency now proposes drinking water have 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, the lower limit of the existing recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.
Fluoride is added to drinking water to reduce tooth decay, but some also occurs naturally in water.
Officials at other area utilities say they are evaluating the new recommendations.
Roy Covington, director of Chesterfield County’s Department of Utilities, said the utility has not yet changed its fluoride levels in drinking water, which averages about 1 milligram of fluoride per liter.
“We’ve been in contact with the state Department of Health, division of water programs, which has primacy from the EPA in terms of enforcing and regulating drinking water standards and criteria. They have not issued any guidance on that yet. We generally take our lead from the state Health Department,” Covington said.
Arthur D. Petrini, Henrico County’s director of public utilities, said the county plans to gradually lower fluoride levels over the next few months. The fluoride level averaged 0.83 milligrams per liter in February, he said.
“We are going to go through the rest of this month with that target,” Petrini said. “In April, we will go to 0.8 milligrams per liter, through June. Then in June we will lower it to 0.75 milligrams per liter. We intend to stay there until such time we get new guidance from (the Virginia Department of Health).”
The state Health Department’s Office of Drinking Water supports the federal recommendation and is working with the EPA to support those community systems that are adjusting their treatment processes to match this recommendation, a spokesman said.
RichTo read more about the change, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at CDC.gov/OralHealth. People can comment on the proposed change by sending email to CWFcomments@cdc.gov through April 15. A final recommendation is expected this fall, a CDC representative said.