In 1985, the city of Brooksville became the first in the region to add fluoride to its municipal water supply. This week, the City Council will consider dropping the common cavity-prevention method as it adopts its budget for the coming year.
The savings? Mostly, $7,000 for chemicals plus labor and ancillary costs that have not been tabulated. If approved, it will be a giant step backward in promoting public health.
The maneuver is pushed by City Council member Lara Bradburn who framed the issue as a 2009 budgetary concern, but acknowledged misgivings about fluoridation dating to the 1980s. Her contention is that insignificant vetting of fluoride by the medical community has posed a potential risk to seniors and children. Those who want fluoride should get it on their own via toothpaste or dietary additives, she said.
We disagree. So does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association on the national level, and the Hernando County Health Department locally. Fluoride is a cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay and save on dental costs for children who are more susceptible to cavities than adults.
There is concern that high levels of fluoride can damage the enamel in teeth, a condition known as fluorosis. The city of Brooksville targets its fluoride concentration at a level of 0.6 to 0.8 parts per million, or at least 80 percent less than the level of 4 parts per million that raised concerns two years ago in a study of water with naturally occurring fluoride.
Most water supplies in the United States have trace amounts of naturally occurring fluoride. Water systems began supplementing that amount in the 1940s after the discovery that consuming a small quantity of fluoride reduced tooth decay. After decades of experience and study of fluoridation, most health authorities agree that properly regulated fluoridated drinking water is not a danger to anyone. The CDC hails fluoridation as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
More than 65 percent of the U.S. population that receives public water gets fluoridated water. Besides Brooksville, fluoride is added to water in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and the cities of New Port Richey, Temple Terrace, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Gulfport and Belleair.
It is a $7,000 investment worth keeping. Obtaining fluoride, Bradburn argued, should not be construed as an economic burden on individual Brooksville citizens because of its widespread availability.
She is not kidding. An estimated 170-million Americans get fluoride in their tap water as a way to promote oral health. The Brooksville City Council should ensure its citizens get the same consideration.