Battle Ground considers, albeit briefly, dropping fluoride
Battle Ground’s city council discussed calling a halt to adding fluoride to the city’s water system during its Dec. 6 meeting. Deputy Mayor Phillip Johnson first raised the issue at the council’s Nov. 15 meeting.
Although the city spends around $32,000 annually to add fluoride to the water supply, Johnson said his concern wasn’t about the money. He said he wants the least amount of chemicals possible added to the water.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in groundwater, fresh and saltwater sources. It can also be found in rainwater, especially in urban areas. Starting in the 1950s, fluoride was added to water to prevent tooth decay in children.
While previous recommendations placed the optimal level of fluoride at 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter, in 2011 both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the recommended level to 0.7 milligrams to per liter. Battle Ground’s water is fluoridated to 1 milligram per liter.
It was Battle Ground voters that approved the addition of fluoride in 1962. However, ending the program wouldn’t necessarily need a public vote. City Manager Erin Erdman said she reached out to the nonprofit Municipal Research and Services Center to get a better understanding of how to move forward.
“They would typically recommend it be removed the same way it was put in place. However, back in 1962 we were a town, and it was an advisory vote. Since we are now a code city and the voting is done a little bit differently, they recommended that we didn’t need to follow that same process,” Erdman said.
Several area dentists submitted written comments, while others called in during the meeting asking the council not to take this step.
“It is the single most effective measure a community can take to prevent tooth decay, and specifically help with tooth cavity prevention,” wrote Dr. Steven Hokett, who has a practice in Salmon Creek Area.
“Many research studies have proven the safety and benefits of supplemental fluoride in water supplies. For 70 years, people in the United States have benefitted from drinking water with fluoride leading to better dental health,” Hokett added.
Several of the dentists also noted that fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash helps, but are not as effective as fluoridated water.
However, Johnson questioned how effective adding fluoride to water really is. Johnson noted only three cities in Clark County fluoridate its water: Battle Ground, Camas and Vancouver.
“That’s roughly half the population of the county,” Johnson said. “We must have a tremendous amount of tooth decay in Hazel Dell, in Hockinson, and these places where there is no fluoridation.”
Johnson said hasn’t heard the “hue and cry” he would expect if children’s dental health were in dire straights across the county.
“I don’t see dentists down at the county banging on the table. I don’t see them in Ridgefield, in La Center, in Washougal banging on the table,” for their water to be fluoridated.
According to a report from the National Institutes for Health, children who live in areas with fluoride levels less than 0.3 milligrams per liter have more decayed, missing, and filled teeth than children living in areas with levels at 0.7 milligrams per liter or higher. The NIH found this to be true for children of all age groups, ranging from 26-66 percent higher in children with baby teeth and from 13-51 percent in children with permanent teeth.
In the end, the council decided not to move forward with further discussions.