Fluoride stays in Aspen water | AspenTimes.com
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Fluoride stays in Aspen water

ASPEN ” Aspenites will continue to have fluoride fed to them through the water system, though the city’s water treatment supervisor believes it’s a hazardous material.

The City Council on Monday passed on the option of removing fluoride from the city’s water system, saying there isn’t enough evidence to change public policy. Fluoridation of water supplies is supported by many doctors, as well as the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association.

The idea was floated to the council by the city’s environmental and public works departments based on concerns raised by some members of the public who believe the health risks associated with fluoride outweigh its health benefits.

Fluoride has been put in Aspen’s water for 40 years, and the majority of Aspen residents voted in favor of continuing to add the compound to the city supply nearly two decades ago.

“Given the fact that there was a vote in 1989, we have a mandate,” said City Councilman Jack Johnson, who is in favor of continuing to fluoridate the city’s water supply.

Charles Bailey, the city’s water treatment supervisor, said he would be neglecting his duties if he didn’t present the negative effects of fluoride, which includes the potential link to bone cancer.

Bailey said because people get fluoride in the water naturally, and in many sources such as soda and processed foods, there might not be a need to continue fluoridating the water supply, which first originated in the 1940s as a way to prevent tooth decay in children.

“People are getting fluoride everywhere,” he said. “If we shut it off, people will still get fluoride.”

He also said that the compound used to add fluoride to Aspen’s water, which comes in dry form and is imported from China, isn’t delivered as efficiently as it could because the water is colder than most communities, resulting in the corrosion of the system’s pumps and tanks. The end result is that the city puts in twice as much fluoride as residents get out of their taps.

“It doesn’t seem to be working,” Bailey said, adding the city is wasting energy trying to deliver the fluoride more efficiently. “We are not getting what we are paying for.”

What’s more, the city’s water ends up on the ground, which could be environmentally unsafe considering that administering fluoride requires workers to wear protective gear and is considered an occupational hazard.

“We are taking a hazardous material and putting it in our water and on our ground,” Bailey said. “If you drop it on the ground, it’s a hazardous spill … if you put it in the water, it’s a health benefit.”

Bailey said he isn’t against fluoride, but is pointing out the potential negative environmental and health risks as they relate to the benefits. He pointed out that less than 1 percent of the local population reaps the benefits of fluoridated water because it’s targeted to young children to prevent tooth decay.

“The target population here has been diminished,” Bailey said.

Mayor Mick Ireland said he has no way of knowing if Aspen residents are getting enough fluoride and there doesn’t appear to be supporting evidence to answer that question, which makes it difficult for him to change public policy and go against the voters. He also said those who can’t afford to get regular dental care and apply fluoride topically, might not be getting enough and therefore they need it to be systemically given to them.

“People were asked one time if they wanted to be medicated and they said ‘yes,’ they want to be medicated,” Ireland said. “Ultimately, it’s not my choice, it’s the people’s choice.”

Ireland said he supports opponents of fluoridated water to circulate a petition and bring the issue to voters if they feel strongly in removing it from the city’s supply.

A few people spoke out against fluoride, including Dr. Tom Lankering, a local chiropractor, who said it’s a hazardous waste with origins from the atomic bomb.

“It’s one of the top 10 most dangerous toxins. … There is some crazy things going on with fluoride,” he said. “It’s mass medication without consent.”

Dr. Bill Wesson, a local dentist, said he doesn’t put much weight into groups such as the American Medical Association because they are trade organizations and therefore have ulterior motives. He said he also questions that with the significant health risks associated with fluoride, whether government should be involved in the issue at all.

Dr. Rob Krakovitz, a local physician, said fluoride is more effective delivered topically rather than systemically, which makes fluoridating the water obsolete.

The council ultimately directed Bailey and Public Works Director Phil Overeynder to find new ways to deliver fluoride more efficiently.

csack@aspentimes.com


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