City asked to quit fluoridating water |

City asked to quit fluoridating water

John Colson

Aspen voters may soon be able to decide for a second time whether the city’s water should be fluoridated or not.

Two locals, Tom Lankering, a chiropractor, and Rob Krakovitz, M.D., have mounted a campaign to either convince the city to stop treating local water with fluoride, or take it to a vote of the people.

The two medicos were at the City Council’s brown-bag lunch on Monday, calling the fluoridation of water a “mass medication for noncontagious, noninfectious diseases,” for which there is no scientific justification. The two have formed a Fluoride Coalition dedicated to convincing the city to dump the fluoridation program.

They conceded that the fluoridation of water has been strongly supported by the dental industry, and by the American Dental Association, for decades.

Fluoridation of urban water supplies, which began in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1945, has consistently been cited by the American Dental Association and other organizations as a beneficial additive that prevents tooth decay and builds strong bones in children.

Fluoride’s detractors say it contributes to the rise of many diseases, including various forms of cancer, and interferes with the human immune system. The ill health effects, according to Lankering, include harmful effects to the pituitary gland, the occurrence of anemia and other blood disorders, and bone deterioration. Fluoride also is currently under fire as a possible contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Krakovitz noted that Aspen’s water is naturally high in mineral content, but that is with naturally occurring calcium fluoride. What is added at the water treatment plant, he said, is sodium fluoride, which is synthetically produced and believed by some to be more toxic than natural fluoride.

The two said people generally consume much more fluoride than they need to, or should. For example, Lankering said, “There is enough fluoride in a tube of toothpaste to kill a 20-pound child,” if the child were to eat the contents.

According to some experts, fluoride is more toxic than lead and only slightly less toxic than arsenic. Lankering called it “one of the 10 most toxic substances around” and added, “don’t impose that on … people. Let them have a choice.”

Urging the city to take a close look at the problem, Krakovitz said a study of fluoride is “at least as important” as the idea of the city studying the possible health impacts from spreading the de-icer magnesium chloride on local streets. Last winter’s flap over mag chloride use was based, in large part, on the presence of heavy metals, including arsenic and lead, in the mixture that had been spread on the roads.

City water superintendent Phil Overeynder said his department puts fluoride in the water to augment the natural amount and get the level to .1 milligram per liter of water – the nationally accepted standard.

But critics maintain that because fluoride “accumulates in the biosphere,” people are exposed to far more environmental fluoride than they used to be, so adherence to national standards is misleading.

“There is cause for concern,” concurred city environmental health officer Lee Cassin, noting that the studies she has seen lately argue persuasively that fluoride may not be the beneficially innocent substance people once thought it was.

The controversy over fluoridation has been growing across the nation for years, and last reached Aspen in 1989, when city voters came down overwhelmingly on fluoride’s side. In May of that year, Aspenites voted 1,505 to 450 to continue fluoridating their water.

Although some members of the City Council seemed somewhat interested in the anti-fluoride presentation, they pointed out they would need to hear from the other side of the debate, at least, before making any decisions.

The council directed City Manager Amy Margerum to set up a two-hour work session to hear from both sides on the issue and discuss any possible action the city might want to take.

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