BOSTON — The region’s largest water supplier will stop putting fluoride into its drinking water for several months while it upgrades the treatment system.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority announced Monday that use of the chemical additives will be suspended for three months, beginning in March, while equipment is upgraded at its Marlborough treatment facility.
The regional water manager said the temporary fluoride shutdown was approved by state public health and environmental officials who reviewed the project.
“While fluoride is important for dental health, health officials believe that this short-term shutdown will not pose any risk to dental health and will not require any special action by consumers,” the authority said in a statement.
The MWRA, which provides drinking water from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs, serves more than 3.1 million people across 61 communities including Marblehead, Peabody, Swampscott and Lynn.
The work on the MWRA’s fluoride treatment system will include replacing the two-decade old fluoride treatment system at the Carroll Water Treatment Plant in Marlborough, which serves 47 communities in eastern and metro west portions of the authority’s coverage area.
In a project overview posted on its website, the MWRA said it plans to use remaining fluoride in the storage tanks over the next month, drain the equipment and piping and turn over the empty system over to a private contractor, who will replace all of the system’s components.
“When the work is completed, all of the new system can be safely tested and adjusted with water before reintroducing chemical, decreasing the risk of unexpected issues and reducing personnel safety risks,” the authority said.
Proponents of fluoridation say adding it to drinking water is a safe, effective and affordable way to improve public health — especially among low-income children without access to dental care or children who lack nutrition and dental hygiene.
Public health officials have called fluoridation one of the 10 most successful health campaigns of the 20th century.
They cite studies showing the prevalence of tooth decay among teens in the United States has declined from about 90% to 60% in the past two decades.
At least 140 water systems in Massachusetts, reaching more than 4 million people, add fluoride to the drinking water to fight cavities, according to the state Department of Public Health. Most have been doing so since the 1950s.
But anti-fluoride activists in some communities have been fighting for years to end the practice.
They say it causes potential health problems — including damage to soft tissues and bones — and raises constitutional issues by violating an individual’s right to consent to medication.
Several communities, including Amesbury and Methuen, have opted out of drinking water fluoridation in recent years though public referendums.
Fluoride is also not added to three of MWRA’s member communities: Chicopee, South, Hadley, and Wildraham, according to the authority.
The authority said it uses “targeted” fluoride level of 0.7 parts-per-million, which is in line with recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and the American Dental Association.
“MWRA has been adding fluoride to the water since the 1970’s to reduce tooth decay and promote community public health,” said Fred Laskey, MWRA’s executive director. “These are the public health experts and we look to them for guidance on this important issue.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.eagletribune.com/news/boston/water-supplier-suspends-fluoride-during-work/article_045d017c-b135-11ed-a42c-0bb0fbe8199b.html