City Council mulls pulling fluoride from drinking water

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Corrosion discovered at one of the City of Madisonville’s water wells sparked a discussion about fluoride levels in the City’s drinking water at a recent City Council meeting.

City Council at its regular meeting May 14 discussed the possibility of ceasing to add the chemical to the City’s supply altogether or reducing the amount injected into the system.

Currently, the City injects enough fluoride into its drinking water to bring the level to between 0.7 and 0.8 parts per million, a level recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Council members and city staff questioned the impact that injecting fluoride into the City’s water system has and will continue to research the issue and prepare a recommendation for a later meeting.

“If we’re going to continue to lower (fluoride levels in the water), it might just be best to take it out of the system altogether,” Public Works Director Kevin Story said.

City staff discovered corrosion at Water Well No. 5 approximately one month ago and upon contacting an engineer received the recommendation that they reduce the level of fluoride being injected into the water supply. Story began investigating the situation and found a notification from the U.S. Health Department from April of last year recommending a reduction in fluoride levels to the 0.7 parts per million level the City presently adheres to.

The recommendation from the Health Department echoed some of the questions voiced by council at last week’s meeting. In the letter, it said the recommended reduction was meant to “reduce the possibility of receiving too much fluoride, which is found in toothpaste, mouth rinses and other dental products.”

“Ingesting it doesn’t really do anything anyway,” council member Doug Sparkman said.

Fluoride occurs naturally in drinking water at approximately 0.26 parts per million, but varies depending on location. Madisonville city staff monitors fluoride levels in the City’s drinking water regularly and makes slight adjustments to the amount added based on results of a weekly test.

City Manager Danny Singletary said that the City received a grant approximately 10 years ago to begin injecting fluoride into the City’s water supply. He also mentioned that many cities in the region have ceased adding fluoride to their water system, including College Station.

While financial considerations did not spark the local conversation, Singletary mentioned that the City of College Station was paying approximately $43,000 per year on fluoride injection before it ceased to do so. Story said he would provide local cost numbers to council for consideration, and that the City is currently paying $10 per gallon for fluoride.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoridated water is effective for preventing cavities. The idea is that fluoridated water creates low levels of fluoride in saliva, which reduces the rate at which tooth enamel demineralizes.

Various groups over the years have raised objections to fluoride being added to drinking water. Some objections have claimed that injecting fluoride into drinking water without citizens’ consent is a violation of civil liberties. Various conspiracy theories about fluoridated water have arisen over the years, most famously in the movie “Dr. Strangelove.”

Council member David Williams during Monday night’s meeting expressed interest in seeing the issue put to a public vote. Singletary mentioned that public participation would likely be present in future conversations.

“When it comes decision time, there will be people here,” Singletary said.

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