Fluoride dispute arrives in Palisade

The town of Palisade has every right to remove fluoride from its treated water supply if it chooses. It’s surprising, however, that the town Board of Trustees chose to do so, apprently on the recommendation of Public Works Director Frank Watt, with nary a notice to town residents beforehand. The decision was announced this week, two months after fluoride was removed from the town’s drinking water.

Watt told The Daily Sentinel’s Paul Shockley this week, that the change will save the town up to $3,000 a year, but that wasn’t the primary reason for getting rid of fluoride.

“My job is to make safe, clean drinking water for the town,” he said, “and the addition of fluoride does not make the water safer or cleaner.”

He’s right in that regard. Beginning in 1945, fluoride has been added to most municipal water supplies in the United States, Palisade’s included, as a means to improve dental health in children. And almost from the time the practice was initiated, opponents have called it costly and unnecessary and have suggested it may create more health problems that it solves. Some opponents even suggested it was a communist plot to destroy public health in this country.

More recently, new reports have disputed the validity of original studies that touted the benefits of fluoride in the water. Some groups have suggested links between fluoride in the water and thyroid problems, as well as cancer. Others, noting that it is poisonous in high concentration, say putting fluoride in the water violates international law and health standards.

However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists fluoridated water as one of the great health successes of the 20th century. Its website shows both benefits and risks, but strongly touts the benefits.

Sixty-plus years after the practice began of adding fluoride to water to improve dental health, it is probably worth reexamining the scientific case for doing so, as well as other options available. Back in 1945, few people could run down to the local supermarket for a bottle of fluoridated mouthwash.

And, while this isn’t an issue that has citizens of the town screaming in anger, the Palisade Town Board may want to consider giving better notification to its constituents prior to making such significant changes.


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