The Western Berks Water Authority will not end the practice of adding fluoride to public drinking water.
The authority board had discussed at a recent meeting the idea of no longer optimizing the fluoride in the water it provides. Michael Hart, board chairman, said the subject is one that has been brought up by a handful of local residents over the past 10 years.
Hart said there are several potential reasons for ending fluoride optimization, including the cost of the process and that fluoride is included in several other products that people use, like toothpaste.
Hart said the authority board decided to leave the decision up to the municipalities the authority provides water to in bulk — Wyomissing, West Reading and Shillington. All three said they were not interested in ending fluoride optimization.
“It is actually dead,” Hart said of the idea. “We have no plans to move forward.”
Hart said that along with the opinions of the three boroughs, the authority had another reason for not ending fluoride optimization. If the authority moved in that direction, it would have to obtain a new permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which could be a long and costly process.
Along with the three boroughs, other local municipalities also get water that runs through the authority’s treatment plant. Shillington sells water to customers in Mohnton and Wernersville, and Spring, Cumru, Bern and Lower Heidelberg townships.
The authority’s discussion about ending fluoride optimization drew the attention of the state Department of Health.
In an open letter to the residents of Shillington, West Reading and Wyomissing, acting Secretary of Health Denise Johnson urged the authority not to take that route.
“Over the past 77 years, adjusting the level of naturally occurring fluoride in public water systems has proven to be one of the most cost-effective, equitable and safe measures community leaders can take to help residents prevent cavities and improve oral health,” the letter read. “Many families who do not have access to regular dental care are still healthier because of this.”
The letter, which was provided to the Reading Eagle in late November by the department, went on to say that despite fluoride being included in common items like toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoridated water reduces tooth decade by an added 25%.
Studies show that schoolchildren in communities with adjusted water fluoridation have, on average, two fewer decayed teeth, the letter read.
“Removing the optimal fluoride level from community water systems harms vulnerable individuals in our communities,” it read.
The letter also said that there are long-term cost benefits to community water fluoridation.
“A recent economic review of multiple studies found that these programs actually save communities money, and the bigger picture of better health for all community members is the greatest benefit of all,” the letter read.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is released from rocks into the soil, water and air. Almost all water contains some fluoride but usually not enough to prevent tooth decay.
Fluoride can be added to drinking water supplies as an effective public health measure for reducing cavities.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.readingeagle.com/2022/12/29/western-berks-water-authority-will-not-stop-adding-fluoride-to-drinking-water/