Fluoride survey will decide

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2003

How do you feel about adding fluoride to your drinking water?

If you are a customer of the city of Columbiana Water Board, Little Waxie or Bethel Water, you will be given a chance to express your opinion on exactly that with the return of your water bill payment this month.

The three water boards are sending messages with their March bills, asking water customers to note on their return payment stub, &uot;yes&uot; or &uot;no&uot; to fluoridation.

According to the water board, there will be a slight monthly fee increase of about two-and-a-half percent to cover the operational cost of adding fluoride to the water.

&uot;You, the customer, will determine the outcome off this project. So, please respond to the survey. The water board appreciates your help and is here to serve you.&uot;

The water board also reports that fluoride is not required by ADEM.

Should the Columbiana Water Works Board

fluoridate the drinking water it sells, it could receive a federal grant of nearly $35,000 to pay for the necessary equipment.

Mac Spurlin, state fluoridation specialist of the Bureau of Family Health Services for the state Department of Public Health, reported the possibility of the grant to the board at its November 2002 meeting.

On hand to speak in favor of fluoridation at that time was local attorney Frank Head.

Speaking against fluoridation at that time was Larry Moore of the Bethel Water System, which purchases water from Columbiana. Little Waxie also purchases water from Columbiana.

Spurlin said money is being made available for fluoridation through the nationwide Center for Disease Control and Prevention headquartered in Atlanta, Ga.

He said the Columbiana grant would be administered through the Alabama Department of Public Health.

At the time, Spurlin said the funds would come to the water board in the form of a reimbursement.

However, since that time, state Dental Director Dr. Stuart Lockwood of the Oral Health Branch of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said once an estimate of cost has been made, the funds could be available up-front through a grant to Columbiana Water System.

Spurlin said funds to add fluoride to drinking water are being made available in 46 states and the District of Columbia. He said Alabama will get the federal money in three increments of $55,000 per year.

Spurlin said the grant would pay for all of the needed equipment. He said he has set aside about $35,000 for Columbiana; but the state is now in the last leg of the grant period.

Lockwood said while the funds are still available, the deadline in which the grant money must be spent by a water system is June 2003. He said a water system cannot wait to vote in June to fluoridate its water and receive the funds.

According to Lockwood, eight of 14 water systems in Shelby County do not have fluoridated water.

They are Calera, Columbiana, Harpersville, Indian Springs School,

Little Waxie, Pelham, Vincent and Wilsonville.

But Lockwood stressed the benefits of fluoridation including, &uot;It reduces tooth decay&uot; and &uot;It prevents decay from ever forming.&uot;

&uot;The greatest benefit is it benefits everybody … children and adults,&uot; he said.

Concerning health risks from fluoridation, Lockwood said, &uot;There is no credible evidence to support claims of a health risk.&uot;

Lockwood said all water has some amount of fluoride, but he said the optimal amount is one part per million. He said the amount already in a water supply will determine the amount needed.

He said 68 percent of the nation’s population is served by public water systems which are fluoridated, and 82 percent of the population of Alabama is served by fluoridated public water systems.

The nation’s population served by fluoridated public water systems has saved an estimated $25 billion in dental treatment during the past decade, according to the CDC. For every dollar, Lockwood said, a water system spends on fluoridation, its customers save on an average of $38 in dental treatment costs.

In Tennessee, Lockwood said, a test of 25,000 schoolchildren showed a 25 percent difference in tooth decay between those drinking fluoridated water and those not drinking fluoridated water.

At the November meeting of the Columbiana Water Board, Moore said the Bethel Water System was &uot;not in favor&uot; of fluoridation.

He provided the water board with information he said was gathered from the Internet. He also pointed out that Sodium Fluoride is a hazardous material and that the issue of fluoridation is not &uot;cut and dried,&uot; because studies were &uot;nebulous&uot; on both sides.

Moore called fluoride a hazardous waste and asked what better way to dilute it than putting it in everyone’s drinking water in the world. He noted that there were court cases pending in other states around fluoridation.

He also said there were issues with fluoridation involving bone cancer, and he urged the board not to make the decision to add fluoride &uot;lightly.&uot;

Head, who also attended that meeting countered: &uot;You can get just about anything off the Internet from people with various agendas.&uot;