Whether the city of Waupaca should continue putting fluoride in its water will be discussed at the next Common Council meeting.
The topic will go before the council without a recommendation from the city’s Board of Public Works.
The board met Jan. 2 and voted 2-3 on a motion recommending the city stop flouridating its water.
Ald. Paul Mayou, who made the motion, was joined by Ald. John Lockwood in voting in favor of ending fluoridation.
Ald. Deb Fenske, Paul Hagen and Scott Purchatzke voted against the motion.
After the motion failed, Mayou made a motion to refer the topic to the council without a recommendation.
The board voted unanimously to do so.
The council meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the council chambers, located in the lower level of City Hall.
Fluoridating the city’s water has now been discussed at two consecutive meetings of the city’s Board of Public Works.
In December, city resident Lisa Funk asked that fluoride be removed from the city’s water supply.
The mother of three children and student in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s health and wellness program told the board it is debatable whether fluoride provides any benefit.
At the Jan. 2 meeting of the Board of Public Works, Dr. Jim Robinson, a Waupaca dentist, was among those speaking in favor of fluoridating city water.
Robinson has undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry and has practiced dentistry in Waupaca for almost 40 years.
In addition, he has traveled throughout the world to work in areas lacking dental clinics.
“I’ve seen areas devoid of fluoride in the water. You can tell a big difference,” Robinson said.
He said more than 3,000 studies from throughout the world have proven fluoride to be effective in preventing tooth decay when in the right dose.
“Like any other substance, it has a safety factor and an overdose factor. You have to weigh the pros and cons,” Robinson said.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral.
Robinson explained that fluoride protects teeth systemically and topically.
Systemic fluorides are ones which are ingested into the body, such as fluoridated water and fluoride supplements.
When teeth are forming, the ingested fluroides are incorporated into the teeth structures.
Toothpaste, mouthrinses and professionally applied fluoride are examples of topical fluorides.
In those cases, the fluoride is incorporated into the surface of teeth.
The city of Waupaca began fluoridating its water in 1970.
The current recommendation of the Enviromental Protection Agency for public water systems is 1.0 parts fluoride per million – or one milligram per liter – which is what the city of Waupaca follows.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is developing new recommendations for community water fluoridation.
The department is proposing to change the recommended level for community water systems to 0.7 milligrams per liter.
It is recommending the change, because the sources of fluoride have increased since the early 1960s.
In the 1960s, drinking water, as well as food and beverages prepared with fluoridated water, accounted for almost all of a person’s fluoride intake.
Today, fluoridated water is only one of several sources of fluoride.
The people most impacted by fluoride are the poor and the elderly, Robinson said.
“About half the children in Waupaca don’t see a dentist regularly,” he said.
Robinson believes every demographic factor benefits from fluoride.
“I can speak to the benefits of fluoride on a personal level,” he said. “I’ve seen how it works in my practice.
However, Mayou said some studies said fluoride can be harmful, including affecting the thyroid and resulting in lower IQs in children.
If the trade-offs to not adding fluoride to water were cavities but higher IQs, the alderman said he would take the cavities and higher IQs.
Robinson said the studies Mayou cited were about the effects of excessive fluoride.
“Tooth disease is the most common disease among chidren in our country,” Robinson said. “The poor and the elderly are our target group.”
Mayou said there are other sources of fluoride, and rejecting fluoride is becoming more common, citing the 258 municipalities that have stopped fluoridating their water in the last 12 years.
“There are multiple sources of fluoride,” Robinson said. “It all has to work together, and the water does its part.”
Speaking to the members of the Board of Public Works, Mayou said if there is the slightest doubts in their minds, they should air on the side of caution and become like those 258 municipalities.
“It’s an acid. I think people are questioning what we are putting in the water,” Mayou said.
Dr. Greg Harvey, who has practiced dentistry in Waupaca for about 33 years, also attended the Jan. 2 meeting.
He was asked if he sees dental fluorosis in his practice.
Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of teeth. It is casued when, during early childhood, higher than optimal amounts of fluoride are ingested, while tooth enamal is forming.
Harvey said in his opinion, he is not seeing evidence the fluoride level is causing a large number of cases of fluorosis.
“I can think of one young boy who has fluorosis and is not in our community,” he said.
One local dentist, Dr. Bill Twohig, said he used to believe in fluoride.
His practice in Weyauwega is now fluoride-free.
“My belief right now is we have better alternatives,” said Twohig, who has a specialized practice. His average patient drives 65 miles or more to see him.
Robbyn Kuester, fluoridation specialist with the Division of Public Health in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, also attended the Jan. 2 meeting.
“The mission of the state Oral Health Program is to promote and improve oral health for the benefit of all Wisconsin citizens. A key component in our efforts to reduce the burden of oral disease is community water fluoridation,” she said. “Water fluoridation is a community health measure that is recognized widely for its role in the prevention of dental decay in children and adults who drink water that has been optimally fluoridated.”
Kuester said fluoride added to community drinking water has repeatedly been shown to be a safe, inexpensive and effective method of preventing tooth decay.
“Despite a decrease in the overall decay experience over the past two decades, dental decay is still a significant oral health problem in all age groups – children as well as adults. Water with the optimal amount of fluoride reduces the incidence of tooth decay by approximately 30 percent,” she said.
Kuester said community water fluoridation benefits everyone in a community, regardless of their age and socioeconomic status, and especially benefits those without access to regular dental care.
“Besides decades of proven safety and effectiveness, there are additional reasons for policymakers – like you – to support community water fluoridation. Fluoridation is a public health measure that costs much less than the cost of dental treatment,” she said.
She said the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that in 2010, 74 percent, or over 204 million Americans on public water systems, receive fluoridated water.
That is an increase of nearly 9 million people since 2008, Kuester said.
“In Wisconsin, over 3.5 million people, or 90 percent of the population living on public water supplies have the advantages of optimally
fluoridated water. There are approximately 250 public water systems in Wisconsin that fluoridate, 50 systems that purchase water from a fluoridated system and 93 public systems that have sufficient natural fluoride levels,” she said.
The natural fluoride content of Waupaca wells is .15 milligrams per liter and .23 milligrams per liter, Kuester said.
“Communities with insufficient naturally occurring fluoride in their water require the addition of very small amounts of fluoride to achieve the optimal level for good health,” she said.
Kuester said an abundance of misinformation about fluoride has been circulated, and she cautioned the public from accepting it as true, simply because they see it in print.
Those looking for information about community water fluoridation may go to sites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Medicine, National Cancer Institute and the American Dental Association, she said.
“Policies regarding community water fluoridation are based on generally accepted scientific knowledge. This body of knowledge is based on the efforts of nationally recognized scientists who have conducted research using the scientific method, have drawn appropriate balanced conclusions based on their research findings and have published their results in peer reviewed professional journals that are widely held or circulated.
“Studies showing the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation have been confirmed by independent scientific studies conducted by a number of nationally and internationally recognized scientific investigators.
“After 60 years of research and practical experience, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is both safe and effective,” Kuester told the board.
She said a number of health organizations endorse community water fluoridation, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association.
Adults and senior citizens, as well as children, benefit from drinking fluoridated water throughout their lives, Kuester said.
She said several studies show people in their 60s, who have lived all of their lives in areas with sufficient fluoride in the drinking water, have much less tooth loss and tooth decay than do adults in non-fluoridated communities.
“Community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and well-tested public health program. The Wisconsin Division of Public Health, along with more than 100 national and international health, service and professional organizations, supports community water fluoridation based on the overwhelming weight of peer-reviewed, credible scientific evidence. Therefore, the Division of Public Health recommends that the city of Waupaca continue this safe and effective public health measure,” Kuester said.