Fluoride Action Network

This Lehigh Valley town won’t have fluoride in its water much longer. Here’s why

The Morning Call | October 10 | By Molly Bilinski
Posted on October 10th, 2022

A change is coming to Catasauqua’s drinking water that officials say will cut borough costs.

Borough council in August voted to transition to a nonfluoridated water system, which is expected to be complete this year, according to a public notice sent to residents. During the council meeting, officials said they “don’t have the money” for fluoridation.

“Customers will not notice any changes in their service and will be notified when the transition is complete,” according to the notice. “The Borough of Catasauqua thanks residents for their patience and cooperation as we make this change.”

No reason for the change was given in the notice.

“Borough council are the ones that made the decision on this issue,” Mayor Barbara A. Schlegel said in an email Monday.

Borough officials did not reply to request for comment.

Fluoride is an extremely common additive to public drinking water — it’s been used in the U.S. for 75 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — as experts generally agree on its benefits.

“Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults,” the CDC says. “By preventing cavities, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money both for families and for the US health care system.”

Borough council voted on the change during its Aug. 29 meeting.

Howard Cunningham, who serves as council vice president and also chairs the public safety committee, moved to rescind fluoride approvals, according to the meeting minutes. It was seconded by Paul Cmil, chair of the public utilities committee.

There were no opposing votes.

“We don’t have the money,” Cunningham said before the vote, according to a video of the meeting. He cited costs between $90,000 and $150,000 for the system, as well as a state report urging officials to freeze discretionary spending.

There was a discussion about the costs of removing the fluoridation system, or simply turning it off. It’s up to the Department of Environmental Protection to provide guidance, officials said.

“By the way, the DEP and the EPA have no opinion on fluoride,” Cunningham said. “None.”

Removing fluoride from a municipal water supply “is considered a substantial modification and would require a major permit amendment prior to cessation of water fluoridation,” according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

The agency notes that fluoride exposure levels have increased over the last 50 years, resulting in an increase in some effects on teeth, like mild dental fluorosis, which is associated with lacy white markings or spots on the enamel. Other common sources of fluoride besides drinking water include toothpaste and mouth rinses, as well as food and beverages made with fluoridated water.

Borough officials will submit a permit application to the Department of Environmental Protection to remove fluoride from the water system, the minutes show.

Wondering if your community has fluoridated water? The state’s rural health office has an interactive map.

*Original full-text article online at: https://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-nws-flouride-removed-from-catasauqua-20221010-uw43mtpimncppdgvep2iajxd7i-story.html