The addition of fluoride to public drinking water supplies, a process known as water fluoridation, has been practiced in the United States since the 1940s. The intent is to prevent tooth decay, especially in children. However, water fluoridation has also been a controversial public health measure over the decades. What are the key arguments on both sides of this issue? Let's take a detailed look at the pros and cons of fluoride in city water specifically for the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
The Purpose and Benefits of Fluoride in Drinking Water
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Fluoride helps prevent cavities by strengthening tooth enamel. It also assists with remineralization, a process that helps repair early decay. When consumed in optimal amounts during the formative years of tooth growth, particularly before age 8, the mineral becomes incorporated into the structure of teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to decay.
According to the CDC, studies show water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by approximately 25% in children and adults. Some key studies they cite are:
A 2015 study covering over 6,000 school-aged children in Arizona showed lower rates of tooth decay in communities with fluoridated water compared to non-fluoridated areas.
A 2010 Texas study found 65% fewer hospital visits for preventable dental issues among children in counties with over 80% fluoridated water coverage compared to counties with lower than 20% coverage.
A 1999 study in Louisiana found a 50-70% reduction in dental procedures among low-income children in parishes with fluoridated versus non-fluoridated water.
Rampant tooth decay can negatively impact a child's nutrition, speech development, self-esteem, social development, and success in school. Water fluoridation helps level the playing field so all children have a chance to grow up cavity-free, regardless of socioeconomic status.
The Safety of Fluoridated Water
Since water fluoridation has been practiced in the U.S. for over 75 years, its short-term and long-term health effects have been extensively studied.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an optimal level of fluoride in drinking water at 0.7 mg/L (or ppm). At this level, fluoride is safe, effective at preventing tooth decay, and does not pose any health risks, according to their assessment.
Some other important safety considerations according to health agencies like the CDC:
Fluoride only provides benefits when applied topically to teeth, through sources like fluoridated water. However, ingesting higher concentrations provides no additional benefit and can actually be detrimental.
When community water is optimally fluoridated, there are no other significant sources of fluoride that need to be considered or adjusted in the diet. Fluoride does not build up in the body over time. Excess amounts are simply flushed out in urine.
There is no scientific evidence of any increased health risks linked to community water fluoridation at the optimal level. There is no causative relationship shown with cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, Alzheimer's, or any other disorder.
Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly all major health, medical, and dental organizations in the U.S., including the American Medical Association, American Dental Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Arguments Against Fluoride in Drinking Water
Despite overwhelming consensus in the health community about its safety and effectiveness, water fluoridation still has some vocal opponents. What are the key concerns cited?
Individual Rights and Consent
Some argue that fluoridating public water denies freedom of choice, as it medicates entire populations without consent. They advocate that it should be a personal decision whether to use fluoride, not something imposed by municipalities.
However, proponents counter that water fluoridation is no different than fortifying cereals or milk with vitamins, or adding chlorine to make drinking water safe from pathogens. It is a sound public health measure that benefits entire communities.
Certain groups believe that even at optimal levels, accumulated fluoride exposure over a lifetime can be problematic and harmful to health in ways not yet fully understood.
However, no large, reputable studies have been able to establish adverse long-term effects of fluoridated water thus far. The few that have claimed issues like cancer or lowered IQ have been refuted by the majority of the scientific community.
Some environmental groups oppose water fluoridation because of concerns that excess fluoride may persist in wastewater and accumulate over time, potentially impacting aquatic ecosystems.
However, most research indicates fluoridated water is not an environmental hazard at recommended levels. Modern water treatment processes remove most excess fluoride before water is returned to nature.
There are costs associated with adding fluoride systems at treatment plants and ongoing chemical purchases. Some argue communities should not bear these costs given uncertainties about health benefits.
Yet most analyses show every $1 invested in water fluoridation yields around $40 in reduced dental treatment savings. It's considered highly cost-effective.
The Status of Fluoridated Water in Tampa Bay
The city of Tampa has fluoridated its municipal water supply since 1953. Today, along with the rest of Hillsborough County, Tampa's water contains 0.7 mg/L fluoride, adjusted to optimal levels by the regional supplier Tampa Bay Water.
St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Pinellas County communities also receive optimally fluoridated water from Pinellas County Utilities.
However, some other areas of Tampa Bay do not fluoridate:
Pasco County does not add fluoride to its public water systems. A 2013 referendum to fluoridate failed to pass.
The cities of Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and some parts of northern Pinellas County do not fluoridate water.
Manatee County does not fluoridate water supplies. A 2011 county commission vote to add fluoride failed.
So fluoride levels can vary greatly depending on your specific location and utility provider in Tampa Bay. Consumers should check with their water company to understand their area's fluoridation status.
Those relying on private wells or other untreated water sources are unlikely to have any fluoride present unless they take measures to add it.
How to Address Fluoride Concerns in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay residents who have hesitations about fluoridated water have alternatives:
A reverse osmosis (RO) system like the AquaRevive Reverse Osmosis System can remove up to 98% of fluoride along with other contaminants, minerals, particles, microbes, and heavy metals. RO operates through a dense membrane that lets only water molecules pass through while trapping everything else. This provides custom purified water for drinking and cooking directly at the tap.
An activated alumina filter can selectively remove fluoride ions from water by adsorbing them onto its specially treated surface. Our experts can add an alumina stage to filtration systems like the AquaBlue Whole House Filter to lower fluoride coming into the home without removing beneficial minerals.
A distiller like the HydroPure Distiller represents another fluoride removal option. Distillers work by boiling water and collecting only the pure steam condensate, leaving behind any contaminants like fluoride. The boiling process removes nearly all fluoride present in water.
For those on private well water seeking to add fluoride, we offer professional installation of fluoride injection pumps that dynamically boost levels to the optimal 0.7 mg/L concentration. This ensures you and your family can enjoy all the protective dental health benefits of fluoridated water. Our water testing can determine pre-treatment fluoride levels so dosing is precise.
Regardless of your views on public water fluoridation, Aqua-Wise Water Treatment Solutions has the solutions to meet your family’s water quality needs. Schedule your FREE water test today to review your options!
Our whole-home and point-of-use systems not only address fluoride concerns but also protect against many other problematic Tampa Bay water contaminants like arsenic, radium, chlorine, chloramine, bacteria, nitrates, sodium, lead, VOCs, and pesticides. We offer a full range of treatment options including water softeners, conditioners, filters, RO systems, UV sterilizers, iron removal, neutralizers, ozone systems, and more.
Get the area's #1 water quality expertise on your side! For over 10 years, our family-owned and operated company has provided honest, professional guidance and affordable systems to both residential and commercial clients throughout Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater, Largo, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, New Port Richey, and surrounding communities. Call Aqua-Wise Water Treatment Solutions at 727-236-7161 or contact us online to schedule a convenient in-home water test and consultation. Our analysis checks your water for over 15 different key indicators so we can tailor the ideal solutions for your needs and budget.
Rentals, leases, financing and commercial options available. Call today to learn more and take advantage of seasonal special offers!