SANDY (ABC4 News) – The recent Sandy water contamination incident was caused when a fluoride pump malfunctioned, leading some to ask why Salt Lake County adds the mineral to its drinking water.
Fluoridation of county water began in 2003, three years after voters approved it. Nicholas Rupp, of the Salt Lake County Health Department, says it’s all about teeth.
“In children under 8 community water fluoridation assure their permanent or adult teeth are stronger and more resistant to decay,” Rupp told ABC4 News Tuesday. “And for adults, it supports the existing enamel and helps dental health.”
But toothpaste tubes have warnings because ingesting too much fluoride can be harmful.
A 2016 article in the Harvard University Public Health Magazine notes, “Excessive fluoride causes fluorosis-changes in tooth enamel that range from barely noticeable white spots to staining and pitting”…”Fluoride can also become concentrated in bone-stimulating bone cell growth, altering the tissue’s structure, and weakening the skeleton” and “Perhaps most worrisome is preliminary research in laboratory animals suggesting that high levels of fluoride may be toxic to brain and nerve cells.”
Rupp agrees that too much fluoride is dangerous but says the levels in county drinking water are safe.
“Problems with the fluoride system are extraordinarily rare and as long as we’ve been fluoridating in Salt Lake County, 13 years now, we’ve never seen something like this happen especially to this degree,” Rupp said. “I want to caution people against throwing out the many years of positive effects we’ve had from community water fluoridation because of this one really unfortunate problem.”
Davis County is the only other county in Utah which adds fluoride to the water but all water contains some of the mineral.
To see how much fluoride is in your water, check out the Utah Department of Health’s interactive map at https://health.utah.gov/oralhealth/fluoride.php.