The Town of Wilkesboro has stopped and won’t resume adding fluoride to water when it’s treated at the town’s water treatment plant, announced Town Manager Ken Noland.
Noland informed the Wilkesboro Council of this decision during a council work session Monday night before the regular council meeting. Noland made the decision with input from staff at the water treatment plant.
Noland said fluoridation program was put on hiatus staring in June 2015 because the town couldn’t get fluoride from its vendors due to a shortage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, fluoride shortages aren’t common and tend to be for just several weeks. Fluoride is produced in only a few areas of the country and must be transported to regional depots.
The shortage only lasted a few months, but Noland also said town equipment used to add fluoride to water was found to have signs of degradation.
Wilkesboro Utilities Director Sam Call said fluoride is hard on equipment because it is a corrosive chemical, but said the decision was not made to stop fluoridation because the town was incapable of feeding fluoride.
“We didn’t stop because we can’t feed it, we just decided, maybe we shouldn’t,” Call said. “We deliberated on it for quite a while and did a lot of research.”
Noland also cited controversy in today’s society over benefits of adding fluoride to water as a reason for discontinuing the program.
“Fifty percent of the people think you should do it and 50 percent think you shouldn’t” add fluoride to public water, Noland said.
Noland called fluoride a “dangerous chemical, very dangerous,” and said it was “a poison.”
He added, “When we started fluoride, you didn’t have every type of toothpaste with fluoride in it and children didn’t have the access to dentists that they have today.” He said there are many other ways kids get fluoride now.
The Town of North Wilkesboro still adds fluoride to its water.
Wilkesboro supplies the Moravian Falls Water Association and, along with North Wilkesboro, the West Wilkes Water Association.
Fluoride isn’t added to the portion of water in the Town of Ronda water system that goes to residents within the town, said Ronda Mayor Victor Varela. This water is from wells in Ronda.
Varela said water for portions of the Ronda water system outside the town limits, which is purchased from Elkin, does have fluoride.
In addition to partly serving the West Wilkes Water Association, North Wilkesboro supplies water to the Mulberry-Fairplains, Broadway and Blue Ridge water associations.
During budget discussions in April, the North Wilkesboro commissioners and Public Works Director Dale Shumate briefly talked about the town’s policy of adding fluoride to its water.
Shumate said there a lot of people are for and a lot of people against adding fluoride to public water. “It’s the most dangerous chemical we work with by far. If it drips on concrete, it will eat it up,” he said.
Shumate said adding it to the water is recommended but not required.
North Wilkesboro Commissioner Debbie Ferguson said that as a dietician, she wanted to continue adding fluoride to the water.
North Wilkesboro Commissioner Bert Hall said he’d like to see a study on the subject and Ferguson said many studies have been done on fluoride in public water.
She added, “There are people out there who say it is bad for your bones and too much is bad, but this is a minute amount that gets added to our water.”
Shumate said Ferguson is correct and added that studies arguing both sides can be cited. Ferguson said some studies are more credible than others.
One of the sources Call cited was Web MD, which states that dental fluorosis (a cosmetic condition caused by overexposure to fluoride) affects one in every four Americans aged 6 to 49.
According to the CDC, a person develops fluorosis during the first eight years of life, while adult teeth are still under the gums.
A 2006 National Research study found children who are overexposed have an increased risk of developing pits in the tooth enamel. The study also found adults who are overexposed have an increased likelihood of bone fractures.
This led to the recommendation that fluoride levels should be lowered in community water sources.
The American Dental Association says “fluoride in community water systems protect at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources.”
Mayor Mike Inscore said, “There is as much research to the positive benefits as the negatives and when we decided we would abandon the continuation we knew there would be some in favor of our action and some against.”
Noland said if public opinion is strongly in favor of putting fluoride in the water, the fluoridation process could easily be started up again.
According to the CDC, fluoride was added to 87.8 percent of community water systems in North Carolina as of December 2014.
• Editorial, Sept 16, 2016: Hold hearing, vote on fluoridation