While the addition of fluoride in drinking water is not a required by law, reports from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show that the city of Temple’s fluoridation is below the recommended levels for proper dental care.
In the latest report from TCEQ in February, the city’s fluoridation level registered at 0.17 milligrams per liter, which Temple dentist Dr. Gary Southerland said is below the advised level.
“The recommended level by the (Centers for Disease Control) and American Dental Association is 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L,” [sic. Since April 2015, the recommended level is 0.7 mg/L] Southerland said.
In previous years, the level has come in between 0.21 to 0.26 mg/L and hasn’t been at 0.7 since 2010. Utility Director Damon Boniface said the city is only obligated to regulate the maximum levels of fluoride in the water.
“Production of (drinkable) water is regulated by the U.S. EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires all public water supply systems to meet health standards. Public water supply systems are required to monitor the maximum level of fluoride, not to exceed 4 mg/L,” Boniface said. “The levels of fluoride currently in our water are naturally occurring.”
City spokeswoman Shannon Gowan said Temple used to supplement the water with fluoride, but stopped in the spring of 2014 due to a number of factors.
“When we treat the water, we look the cost involved, we monitor the levels of what is naturally occurring and we look at staff safety involved with handling a chemical,” Gowan said. “Because we do have naturally occurring fluoride in our water, we don’t supplement it.”
While fluoride can be consumed through toothpaste, mouthwash and some processed foods, Southerland said it isn’t a significant amount.
“(Toothpaste) can help, but it’s not the same thing and it doesn’t act the same way as ingesting it,” Southerland said.
Southerland added that fluoridation is even more important for children in low-income areas.
“The people that most benefit from (fluoridation) are kids who are disadvantaged. Those are the kids who tend to not benefit from regular dental benefits,” Southerland said.
While some may be opposed to fluoridation, Southerland said there hasn’t been much evidence of negative health effects. The only known effect is a condition called fluorosis, which can cause discoloration of the teeth.
“Fluorosis occurs when the fluoride levels are significantly higher than the recommended levels. It’s really doesn’t cause a lot of problems other than appearance,” Southerland said.
Whether or not the city decides to resume fluoridation in the future, Southerland would like to see community members speak up on the issue.
“If it’s a discussion the community wants to have, we should do it,” Southerland said. “The community should have that discussion, and if they want to vote on it, they should. But we shouldn’t lead the public to believe that their water is being fluoridated properly and then have it not be.”