BUDA, Texas (STPNS) — Kids under the age of 9 shouldn’t drink the water in Kyle.
That’s the message that thousands of Kyle utilities customers read why they opened a letter from the city late last month detailing the high levels of fluoride in local water.
Fluoride occurs naturally in all water. Many communities also add fluoride to their water supply, a tactic that’s been credited with reducing cavities by about 50 percent since World War II.
The American Dental Association recommends that fluoride levels in drinking water be maintained at about 1.0 parts per million (ppm).
But it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing. If young children consume high levels of fluoride, they can develop a dental condition known as enamel fluorosis.
Mild cases of fluorosis cause white mottling or spotting on teeth. More severe cases can cause large brown stains that are impossible to remove without expensive dental procedures such as micro-abrasion or cosmetic veneers. The condition only affects teeth as they are developing in children’s gums, so children who already have a full set of permanent teeth aren’t at risk.
Some water sources, such as the well water in Kyle, contain unusually high fluoride levels. Based on the most recent water quality report, Kyle’s fluoride levels ranged from 3.29 – 3.3 ppm.
Levels above 2.0 ppm trigger the automatic notification noting the risk of fluorosis. The EPA sets enforceable drinking limits of 4 parts per million, saying that long-term consumption at that level could lead to bone disease.
Kyle Communications Director Jerry Hendrix said the city direct-mailed the fluoride notice to all water customers about two weeks ago and posted the document on the city website last week.
“This is language that the state required of us,” Hendrix said. “We don’t have anything to say about how it’s worded.”
But the city says residents shouldn’t be worried about the water.
“By the time it gets to your house it’s perfectly safe to drink,” Hendrix said.
One city well in Gregg-Clarke Park produces water with a high level of fluoride, Hendrix said, but that is mixed with other water piped into Kyle and only amounts for about 15 percent of the water that comes out the tap.
“While it is possible that some homes and businesses that are close to this well might get higher levels of fluoride, most other homes would receive water that has been combined with water from other sources with much reduced fluoride levels,” Hendrix said.
The city only tests water as it comes out of the well, Hendrix said, but does not test water from the tap.
This week, the Free Press had the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center (EARDC) conduct tests for fluoride levels on a water sample from a drinking fountain in Gregg-Clarke Park next to the playscape, a sample from Kyle City Hall, and a control sample from downtown Buda.
The sample from the park measured fluoride levels of 3.5 parts per million, while City Hall measured just 1.1 ppm.
Meanwhile, the Buda sample measured 2.8 ppm, also above recommended levels. According to the water quality report the city mailed out this week, Buda’s fluoride levels ranged widely from 0.7 – 2.43 ppm, with an average of 1.57.
After hearing the results, school district officials say they will conduct water quality tests at Kyle area elementary schools before the fall semester.
“We will monitor and see where we’re at before school starts,” said R.C. Herrin, executive director of operations for Hays CISD.
Science Hall, Fuentes, Negley and Tobias Elementary Schools use city of Kyle water, Herrin said. The schools serve milk, juice and bottled water in the cafeteria but use city water for cooking and in fountains.
Connie Freeman, a chair-side dental assistant, said fluorosis used to be even more prevalent in Kyle before the city diversified its water supply.
“You don’t see it like you used to,” Freeman said. “It used to be worse. It used to be that if a kid was born and raised in Kyle they were going to get it.”
Dr. Steven Howard moved his dental practice from Austin to Kyle about a year and half ago and says he encounters more cases of fluorosis in his new practice. About 90 percent of the cases are mild, Howard said, but some are severe.
“We are seeing quite a few cases of fluorosis,” Howard said. “My understanding is the source water just has a high naturally occurring concentration of fluoride. When we’re getting to the levels we have now, we’re recommending to patients under age 8 that they utilize a filtered water or bottled water system.”
Jason Hamilton, a sales manager for Culligan Water Conditioning of San Marcos, said the high fluoride levels tend to take new residents by surprise.
“There’s so many new people moving to Kyle and they don’t know about it until they talk to their dentist,” Hamilton said. “Just about any of the people that are aware of it are concerned.”
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