Next month, city voters will receive a ballot in the mail in advance of the April 4 election day, providing the opportunity to vote for three of five City Council candidates, as well as to cast a vote for the fate of our fluoridated municipal water.
Many have asked how the fluoridation issue arrived on the ballot for city voters to decide. After approximately two years of discussions and reviewing extensive research from San Juan Basin Health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and a majority of health care professionals, the council unanimously voted to keep the recommended low level of fluoride in our water system in order to provide a small, but meaningful, base level of dental protection for our residents, regardless of social-economic status.
On Jan. 6, a petitioner’s committee, made up of 34 registered city voters, filed a petition with the city clerk seeking the adoption of legislation to prohibit the use of fluoride in the city’s drinking water, voicing concerns about the additive.
Council’s options at that point were either to adopt the prohibition of fluoride or to submit a ballot question to voters on whether or not to adopt the petitioner’s proposed ordinance. Council chose the latter.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the maximum concentration for fluoride in our drinking water is 4.0 parts per million. In some areas of La Plata County, well water may have natural levels far exceeding this amount, and I encourage you to have your well water tested to ensure safe fluoride amounts.
At a recommended optimal level of 0.7 ppm, the city of Durango water contains 17.5 percent of the maximum concentration. Naturally occurring fluoride from our raw water supply is at a level of 0.24 ppm, and then based on the recommendations of CDPHE, the city optimizes the level to achieve this public health benefit for every member of our community.
According to CDPHE, “Fluoridation is one of the most studied public health benefits, and over 65 years of scientific research has and continues to prove its safety and effectiveness in preventing dental cavities.” Local health professionals noted that children growing up in communities with fluoridated water have fewer cavities, observe reduced dental decay and experience less pain, which has an evidence-based correlation with participation in school and overall nutrition throughout one’s life.
The city has invested in redundant instrumentation and analytical methods to ensure our water is safe and meets or exceeds public health regulations and standards, and has received water quality awards from the CDC and CDPHE.
The city does not use an aluminum waste byproduct, nor does the city use a pharmaceutical-grade fluoride additive, as neither are appropriate for water fluoridation additives. As with most fluoride additives used in the U.S., the product is produced from phosphorite rock.
I would encourage you to visit the city’s FAQs page at durangogov.org/fluoride and research this important decision for yourself.
Look for Question 1A on your ballot which will say: “Shall the following citizen-initiated ordinance be approved?” A “for” vote means no added fluoride. An “against” vote means the city will be able to maintain our current drinking water standards.
Christina Rinderle is the mayor of Durango, a position rotating among members of City Council. She was re-elected to the City Council in 2013 and will serve as mayor until April, when she will be succeeded by now-Mayor Pro Tem Dick White. Reach her at ChristinaRinderle@DurangoGov.org.