Fluoride Action Network

Western Springs: Blending water may diminish fluorosis concern

Source: The Doings Western Springs (A Chicago Sun-Times publication) | February 3rd, 2012 | By Chuck Fieldman
Location: United States, Illinois

A concern expressed by some Western Springs residents about the fluoride level in the village’s water during the rehabilitation of the water plant could be eliminated by Feb. 11.

The concern is about fluorosis, a condition that could affect adolescent children.

This condition occurs in developing permanent teeth before they erupt from the gums, according to the village’s website. Commonly exhibited signs of dental fluorosis are white streaks on the teeth in minor cases to brown discoloration in more severe cases.

The main well being used to provide water during the water plant rehabilitation has a naturally occurring fluoride level of about 2.1 mg/L. This level is considered to be safe for drinking; however, fluoride levels in drinking water above 2.0 mg/L may cause signs of dental fluorosis.

Village officials have suggested residents direct any concerns to a family dentist.

However, Ken Hayes, the village’s water plant operator, said Friday he was planning to try a different approach in blending the water in the wells over the next week, which would lower the fluoride level below the 2.0 mg/L level.

“I couldn’t do this before because the plant was never set up to this, and the additional equipment needed for this approach had to be ordered and installed,” he said.

That would be welcomed news to many residents, including Stacey Zapalac, who has two children, ages 4 and 6, and has been both concerned and frustrated with the water situation since work began this fall on the year-long water plant rehabilitation project.

“There’s been a lot of talk about this among many people I know,” Zapalac said. “I contacted my dentist about it, and he told me that to be on the safe side I should use bottled water with fluoride in it. I’ve talked to several friends who also have asked their dentists, and everyone is getting different answers about this.”

Zapalac said she and her friends are frustrated there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer from dentists about the issue of fluorosis.

“I get five e-mails a day on this issue,” she said. “A smile is a very important thing, and when it comes to your kids you don’t want to take any chances with anything.”

Vincent Versaci, a Western Springs dentist who has operated a practice in the village since 1989, said he was aware of the water issue in the village, but hasn’t had any of his patients ask about fluorosis.

“The fluoride level probably isn’t so high that there would be an urgent concern,” he said. “Where this could be an issue is when the enamel is forming. My feeling, anecdotally, is that kids are not drinking a lot of water out of the tap; they are drinking bottled water without fluoride in it. I’ve noticed an increase in tooth decay with children over the past few years, and I would say that probably is because they aren’t getting the fluoride in the bottled water.”

Versaci said there is no definitive answer to those asking if they should allow their adolescent children to drink Western Springs tap water while the water plant rehabilitation is being done.

“I would probably let them drink tap water, but not as an exclusive source of water,” he said. “I would use some bottled water to balance it out. Fluorosis isn’t something that would happen from occasional use of tap water, so if you balance out the tap water with some bottled water, that probably would be a good solution for a parent who is concerned.”

Patrick Pendleton, another dentist with a practice in Western Springs, agreed.

“It’s always smart to error on the side of safety,” he said. “I’m not sure how much tap water people in Western Springs are drinking, but it probably would be a good idea to mix it up between tap and bottled waterm and maybe put a filter on the tap water.”

Zapalac said another issue of concern while the water plant rehabilitation is going on is that water cannot be softened.

“I found out that the village was doing this project by word of mouth,” she said. “A lot of people didn’t know about it, and I had friends who spent hundreds of dollars on plumbers because their dishwater became clogged. It turned out it was from the hard water, and the plumbers told them there are things they can add to take care of that. Meanwhile, though, they spent all that money on a plumber because they thought something was wrong and didn’t know why.”

Normally, the water is softened and purified before it’s pumped into the distribution system for consumer use. However, it cannot be softened during the rehabilitation project.

Hayes said information about the water plant rehabilitation was disbursed to residents in various ways, including the village’s website and Tower Topics newsletter.

“It seems as though the information is not getting to the residents fast enough,” he said.

Each year, the village’s Water Department serves more than 4,400 customers by pumping water from local wells to the treatment plant at 614 Hillgrove. Ave.

During the rehab project, the water plant will continue to maintain effective chlorine (disinfectant) residuals, remove iron, and stabilize the pH (sodium hydroxide) in the water. The water chemistry will be monitored to ensure that the water quality meets or exceeds government regulations.