City councilors appear to be leaning toward a policy change that would stop the practice of adding fluoride to Santa Fe’s drinking water.
The city Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday told city staff to look into “any concerns” about halting extra fluoridation to water from the city wellfield, Canyon Road Water Treatment plant and other sources.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have announced they intend to lower the “optimal level” of fluoridation in public drinking water sources to 0.7 parts per million. The current standard ranges between 0.8 and 1.2 ppm.
At present, the city’s water sources have a naturally occurring level of between 0.2 and 0.4 ppm, and managers add fluoride chemicals to raise the level to a target of 0.8, said Brian Snyder, Utilities Department director.
The American Dental Association continues to advocate for “optimum fluoridation” for prevention of tooth decay.
In recent months, some city residents have asked councilors to stop fluoridation because of concerns about negative health consequences.
City Councilor Chris Calvert, the committee chairman, introduced a measure last month that is intended to adopt whatever new federal standards emerge. But on Wednesday said he no longer felt that was the right course of action.
“I don’t think there is any need to add to our existing fluoride with the background level that we already have,” he said, adding that most people get enough fluoride now from processed foods and dental products that contain the mineral.
Snyder said the city spends about $32,000 a year adding fluoride and that federal guidelines are not mandatory. The city of Albuquerque, for example, doesn’t add the fluoride to its water, he said.
According to the state Environment Department, Santa Fe is one of only two cities in the state that adds fluoride.
“What is to stop us from not adding fluoride to the water and not spending that money?” Councilor Bill Dimas asked.
Councilor Chris Rivera said he wanted staff to ensure that the city wouldn’t be taking on any liability by going against federal guidelines.
The committee approved Calvert’s original resolution to comply with federal guidelines, but gave direction to staff to inquire about consequences of stopping the practice. The measure is scheduled to be on the City Council agenda next Wednesday as a “request to publish,” and Calvert said councilors could adopt an amendment at that time that changes the resolution to call for no addition of fluoride chemicals in the water system.