Palisade water without fluoride

The town of Palisade on Tuesday said it has not added fluoride to its drinking water system for the past two months, a move counter to the practices of the Grand Valley’s other drinking water providers.

The decision, which Palisade Public Works Director Frank Watt said became effective March 14, also comes amid new national health discussion on proper community fluoridation levels.

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

The health benefits — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a 2010 study roughly 74 percent of the U.S. population drinks from fluorinated water systems — can be argued, Watt said.

“Let’s say it’s better for your oral health,” Watt said. “There are a lot of other nutritional deficiencies out there for which I’m not adding anything to the water. An informed public can make decisions on their own health.”

Naturally occurring fluoride in Palisade’s water on average is half of recommended levels, Palisade town officials said in a news release. The decision to stop adding fluoride was made by Watt in consultation with the town’s board of trustees, the release said.

Asked about the delay in notifying the public, Watt said, “There’s been a bit of process between me and the department of health on how to inform the public.”

The news release urges anyone with concerns about reduced fluoride to go shopping for fluoride-infused mouthwash and toothpaste.

Watt estimated Palisade will save between $2,500 and $3,000 annually by not purchasing fluoride.

“(Cost) is a factor but not a determining factor,” Watt said of dropping the chemical. “Obviously the money I don’t spend can be spent on something else I believe correlates more directly with our water and infrastructure being safer and more protected.”

Community water fluoridation has been a staple for prevention of tooth decay nationally for 65 years and the practice remains endorsed by CDC’s division of oral health, according to CDC’s web page.

The Grand Valley’s other domestic water providers, the city of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District and Ute Water Conservancy District, all add fluoride to the drinking water. Ute Water, the largest domestic water provider in western Colorado, has pumped fluoride for more than four decades, Ute spokesman Joe Burtard said.

“Our board firmly believes in the health benefits of providing fluoride, which far outweigh the cost of putting it into the system,” Burtard said.

For 2012, Ute Water has budgeted approximately $32,000 for the purchase of fluoride, while the agency has budgeted $365,000 for all chemical additives, Burtard said.

Brandon Williams, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Colorado currently has no recommended standard for levels of fluoride in drinking water.

Williams said Colorado is awaiting a final decision from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which in January issued a preliminary recommendation that maximum levels of fluoride should be reduced to 0.7 milligrams per liter.

The federal agency had previously recommended safe levels between 0.7 milligrams per liter and 1.2 milligrams per liter. A final recommendation is expected later this year.

“We’re waiting for that before urging water operators to drop to that level,” Williams said.

Corrine Allen-Ziser, fluoridation specialist with the state health department, said she was “surprised” by Palisade’s move, adding the town has fluoridated drinking water for 60 years.

She said Palisade water has submitted monthly reports showing fluoride as naturally occurring in its water at an average of 0.1 milligrams per liter, while she said dental benefits generally aren’t seen until fluoride levels are at 0.5 milligrams per liter. “The state recommends fluoride as a safe, effective, cost-effective preventative dental measure for the public based on all the available scientific data we have access to,” Allen-Ziser said.

Watt, meanwhile, said he believes savings from removing fluoride from the town’s system should be spent on aging infrastructure or possible threats to Palisade water. While not currently drilling, Genesis Gas & Oil LLC has designs on Grand Mesa, he noted.

“There are oil and gas leases in our watershed,” Watt said. “At some point they’ll be up there drilling and we’ll need to be monitoring and running tests when that starts to happen.”


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