By Jennifer Hansen
Utah County”s city councils have chosen not to follow in the footsteps of Davis County with plans for water fluoridation.
“It”s an issue for some people in the city,” said Paul Warner, a Provo City councilman. “But at this point, I think, they”re just going to let it lie.”
Fluoridation is a water treatment process that adds a fluoride compound to a city”s drinking water system in an effort to reduce tooth decay.
“Fluoridation reduces the overall prevalence and severity of dental decay in the population and does so fairly cheaply,” said professor Brian Burt, a proponent of fluoridation and University of Michigan faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology.
However, opponents think consumers do not fully understand the process of fluoridation.
“When the proponents say that they are going to be adjusting the amount of naturally found fluoride in the water to an optimal level, it”s a very misleading statement,” said Rosemary Minervini, president of the Safe Drinking Water Coalition and registered hygienist.
“What is being added to the water is more than just fluoride,” Minervini said. “It”s a compound that contains other trace elements such as mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium. What they”re actually adding in is fluorocilisic acid, which contains a lot of contaminants.”
Consumers are concerned about the effects of fluoridation on the human body.
“Most fluoride you ingest is excreted via the kidney, and some is deposited in your bones,” Burt said.
He said bone fluoride accumulates throughout life with no evident health risks.
The Utah Department of Health has reported several studies that have “established water fluoridation as a safe, practical, effective public health measure.”
However, the Fluoride Action Network has reported that no fluoride product generated for ingestion has ever been approved as safe or effective by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Cost is another issue.
The setup of fluoridation in Salt Lake City”s drinking water has cost more than $2.4 million, Minervini said.
However, the Utah Health Department reported fluoridation to be highly cost effective.
Utah County does not want to deal with the issue right now because of the costs, health questions and controversy of fluoridation, Minervini said.
“It”s up to the county commissioners whether the issue goes on the ballot or not,” Warner said. “If they put it on, each city can decide what they want to do.”
However, this too is a highly debated topic.
“Fluoride tablets are prescribed, as it is now, and why should a person vote to prescribe it to their neighbor?” Minervini said.
College students should be concerned with fluoridation “for the same reasons they should be aware of all public health activities,” Burt said. “It affects us all.”
The Utah Health Department has reported that currently only 3 percent of Utah citizens are serviced by optimal levels of fluoridated water systems – the lowest in the nation.