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Columbia considers adjusting fluoride levels after federal recommendation

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | 6:02 p.m. CST; updated 6:33 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

COLUMBIA — Fluoride levels in Columbia's drinking water are higher than a new federal recommendation, and the city is asking the state for advice.

Fluoride has been added to drinking water in the U.S. since the 1940s for cavity prevention.

 The federal government, in its decision to recommend lower levels, noted that Americans are getting fluoride from more sources than drinking water such as fluoride toothpastes, mouthwashes and dental treatments.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and Human Services issued a recommendation that drinking water contain 0.7 parts fluoride per million parts of water. The previous recommended amount was between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million.

Columbia’s average fluoride level in 2010 was 1.01 parts per million, according to a city water testing report.

The level of fluoride has stayed consistently around 1 part per million in recent years and is “continually monitored during the water treatment process ... as the water is fed into the system,” said Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for the Columbia Water and Light Department.

Floyd Turner, manager of water operations for Columbia, said the city will communicate with the Department of Natural Resources this week to discuss the new federal recommendation. The city's response will involve the Water and Light advisory board and eventually the Columbia City Council, Turner said.

John O’Connor, founder and consultant of Columbia-based H2O’C Engineering, said that almost all groundwater has low levels of naturally occurring fluoride.  A natural fluoride supplement is added to drinking water to meet EPA recommendations, he said.

"I would follow the recommendation the EPA is making," O'Connor said. "I think it's a valuable public health measure. ... It's based on sound science."

Overexposure to fluoride among children under 8 can cause fluorosis, which results in spotting or streaking of teeth.

“We don’t see high levels of fluorosis unless it’s from a rural water supply,” said Kyle Lisenby, a dentist at the Plaza Dental Group. “We don’t see that in city patients who drink city water. Some of the rural wells in the area have higher levels of fluoride.”

Mary Gadbois, a dentist at Cherry Hill Dental Associates, said her office sees more children with fluorosis. She said she sees the recommendation as a good change.

"You don't need quite as much fluoride to get the benefits," she said.


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Comments

Corey Parks January 11, 2011 | 10:46 p.m.

The city should not both asking for advice from another govt agency. It should be as simple and using common sense and realizing what Fluoride is.

Sodium fluoride is a toxic byproduct of the aluminum and nuclear industry, which before they were able to convince people to eat and drink it, was pretty expensive to dispose of. I suppose one can make a case for its ability to kill the bacteria on your teeth (as well as rats, The Allies in WWII and Japanese subway riders) in a topical paste form you spit out but there is absolutely no good reason to just drink it.
Fluoride in concentration higher than in natural water is negative to your body. Fluoride was sold (lobbied) as a beneficial chemical to the govt s by the big corps because it cost them $$$ to dispose of their poisonous fluoride waste product. It is well known that Vitamin D is good to our bone, how come the govt s don't put vitamin D in our drinking water instead?

Remember this is the same govt that bans marijuana but allows cigarettes.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble January 12, 2011 | 1:09 a.m.

Very, very glad to see this. The tide of science has turned against the value of fluoride in drinking water. Recent studies, in fact, have suggested it has no value at all at the societal level. Fluoride is a toxin and has the greatest beneficial effect when applied directly, not ingested.

I fully support whatever time, resources, and expenses are involved in the city making this change. Best of luck to those involved for a speedy, effective process.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver January 12, 2011 | 1:48 a.m.

I remember reading that flourine was a byproduct of the production or mining of aluminum, a sludge of the process and before that was buried deep within the earth. As the previous author states it is toxic and in fact I have cleaned out old houses and found old flouride canisters with the skull and crossbones on them and have long wondered why we fell for putting it in our drinking water.

If I recall correctly to start with, some of this sludge ran off into the drinking water supply and they couldn't figure out what was wrong with the teeth of the people in the community as this was something new. I believe they were mottled, but extremely hard, so much so that they became brittle and so were easier to break.

Also as the previous poster noted, this sludge was becoming very expensive to get rid of so they came up with the fascinating plan to sell it to water supply systems to harden people's teeth. How brilliant is that? Take a toxic sludge that is costly to get rid of and turn around and convince people that they need to ingest it. But it's not only in our drinking water. It is used in growing crops, as well as in many other industries, that puts it out into the air.
It plays Hell on the kidneys and brains of rats, so I'm pretty sure it doesn't do humans any good either.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks January 12, 2011 | 9:18 a.m.

Who at the city level would we take our comments to stop this process or at the very least lower it to as low as the feds will allow?

City Council or the mayor or the city manager?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 12, 2011 | 9:51 a.m.

Fluorine has a lot of industrial uses, and as a gas it is quite irritating and toxic. Fluoride (the salt form) causes symptoms at levels 30 to 50 times what we get in water. The effects of lower amounts (from the recommended level of 1 mg/liter to the maximum of 4 mg/liter) are less clear, other than fluorosis in sensitive people.

Actually, most fluoride poisining or fluorosis comes from natural sources, not from being added to drinking water. No big corporation foisted this upon us to help their bottom line.

When they started doing this, fluoride toothpastes were uncommon. Many people brushed with tooth powders, salt, or baking soda. It was a well intentioned effort to help people avoid cavities, and is largely felt to be successful. But these days, most every toothpaste has fluoride, and dentists administer fluoride treatments to children, so it's not the help it was in the '40s and '50s.

It wouldn't matter much these days if they reduced the level to 0.7 mg/L or simply stopped adding it at all. If you're worried about it, fluoride levels can be reduced or eliminated by deionization, reverse osmosis, or other commercial water filters (even charcoal will reduce the level somewhat).

DK

(Report Comment)
Chris Cady January 12, 2011 | 11:45 a.m.

I would offer a few comments on some misconceptions that have been posted.
Corey wrote:
”The city should not both asking for advice from another govt agency. It should be as simple and using common sense and realizing what Fluoride is.”
I guess every city could have its own toxicologists, environmental risk assessors, and health researchers. But it makes more sense to have a smaller number of these at the state and federal level to serve many local governments. What, you don’t trust the state or the feds? Why trust the city then?
“I suppose one can make a case for its ability to kill the bacteria on your teeth (as well as rats, The Allies in WWII and Japanese subway riders)”
It does not kill bacteria, it is incorporated into the crystalline structure of the teeth, making them harder and more resistant to decay. And I believe you’re referring to Sarin gas, (CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F, which admittedly has one F atom in it, but its similarity to sodium fluoride in toothpaste or drinking water is nonexistent. Its toxicity is mainly due to its being an organophosphate. Suggesting they are similar toxins is like saying table salt is as toxic as dioxin because they both contain chlorine.
“It is well known that Vitamin D is good to our bone, how come the govt s don't put vitamin D in our drinking water instead?”
Because it’s put in milk already. I believe Vit. D is fat soluble, so milk works better than water as a delivery medium.

Chip wrote:
“As the previous author states it is toxic and in fact I have cleaned out old houses and found old flouride canisters with the skull and crossbones on them and have long wondered why we fell for putting it in our drinking water.”
Again, what fluoride containing compound was that? Even if it was sodium fluoride, the dose makes the poison. PPM levels in water are not the same as ingesting a can full or even a spoonful. Even essential nutrients are toxic if too much is taken.
“It plays Hell on the kidneys and brains of rats, so I'm pretty sure it doesn't do humans any good either.”
See above.

(Report Comment)
Stefan Bellm January 12, 2011 | 1:38 p.m.

Corey,
I am the reporter for this story, and fluoride levels can be discussed with the Columbia Water and Light Department.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks January 13, 2011 | 3:44 p.m.

Thank you Stefan

(Report Comment)

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