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Board of Health recommends city water stay at current fluoride level

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 6:21 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Board of Health recommended in a report to City Council on Monday night that the amount of fluoride in city water remain at its current level.

The council requested the report in January after residents brought the potential dangers of fluoride to its attention, according to previous Missourian reporting. The city spends about $50,000 a year to fluoridate the water.

The board voted 7-2 in favor of the current level — the 0.7 parts per million that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend — after reviewing hundreds of articles, listening to public testimony and receiving input from the water department.

On another issue, the board voted 9-0 that the city continue to use hydrofluorosilicic acid to fluoridate Columbia's drinking water. The acid is the most common fluoride used.

In its report to the council, the board enumerated multiple benefits of fluoride use, including:

  • that fluoride is healthy for teeth
  • that it's naturally found in water and that the acid acts to bring it up to the recommended level
  • that fluoridation helps low income people who are not able to afford dental care
  • that its use is less costly than educating the public on dental hygiene

Michael Szewcyzk, a member of the Board of Health who was at the council meeting, said the positive effects fluoride could have on children's teeth will stay with them their entire lives.

The report also states that there haven't been any proven serious health risks that accompany fluoridation in water. MU has its own water system and maintains a fluoridation level of 1.25 ppm, which is higher than the recommended level. There have been no reported health issues or concerns with MU's water, according to the report.

Columbia residents ingest less fluoride than people who live in Boone County, Szewcyzk said at the meeting.

The two members of the board who voted against the fluoridation level both cited health concerns. One member, who was not named in the report, said that the health concerns have yet to be identified.

But Szewcyzk said there are no proven negative health effects from continued ingestion of fluoride as adults.

"If your bones aren't growing, there's no way for fluoride to be incorporated into them anymore," he said.

The other member who voted against retaining fluoridation at its current level said the public can receive equal benefits from fluoride through brushing and dental care. This member, whose name was also not included, said he or she wanted the issue to be left to public vote.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser also expressed concerns about fluoridated water during the meeting. She said that after reading the report, she contacted 54 fluoride manufacturers about the chemical makeup of their product and that none would release the information to her. She said the lack of transparency "is concerning."

Nauser created a resolution to discontinue use of fluoride in city water so that the practice can be further investigated. The public will have a chance to comment on the issue at an upcoming City Council meeting.


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