Mark Twain once famously asserted, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
It is easy in life, even in science, to draw plausible but incorrect conclusions. In the case of community water fluoridation, a full understanding requires careful weighing of technical evidence. That is hard for anyone without a relevant scientific background, whether we are policymakers or voters. For that reason, I rely on testimony from local and national medical professionals.
Durango supplements the 0.24 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in our source water, boosting the concentration to 0.7 ppm, the level recommended in 2015 by the U.S. Public Health Service. At the Jan. 30 city council public hearing about community water fluoridation, 18 medical and public health professionals spoke – 15 favored continuing this practice while just three opposed it.
The PHS recommendation rests on a report by a high-level scientific review panel on the benefits and risks of fluoride (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547570/). They documented that community oral health, especially for children, improves with fluoride concentrations up to the recommended 0.7 ppm, but not above that level. They also evaluated risk concerns expressed during the public comment period – the same concerns expressed, often with unwarranted certainty, by opponents of community water fluoridation in Durango. The PHS panel concluded that the risks of negative health impacts from fluoridation at the recommended concentration are outweighed by well-documented life-long oral health benefits.
Fluoride at high concentrations is dangerous; so is chlorine, which we accept at small concentrations as a key disinfectant in our water supply and as a necessary nutrient in our diets. Fluoride in small concentrations benefits everyone, but especially the economically disadvantaged, who frequently cannot afford dental care and may even lack enough money for food.
Approval of Question 1A would prohibit the city from continuing fluoridation for public health. Join me in voting against the ordinance in the April 4 election.