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Seminole to Stop Putting Fluoride in Water

July 19, 2008

By Adrian G. Uribarri, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

Jul. 19–If you live in Seminole County and have been rushing through your toothbrushing routine, you might want to take an extra minute or two to scrub.

County officials said they will stop putting fluoride in the drinking-water supply in about three or four months, after the cavity-fighting chemical runs out at the county’s water-treatment facilities.

Fluoridated drinking water reaches about 75 percent of homes served by the county utility, said Ruth Hazard, Seminole’s assistant utilities manager. The county has been adding fluoride since the mid-1980s, she said.

Hazard said Seminole has been dealing with a nationwide shortage of fluoride, and that with budgets tightening, it made sense to eliminate what some view as an unnecessary and even harmful additive.

“We just could not get it anymore,” Hazard said, and “at the same time, the budget cuts are coming along.”

Officials had made the decision to stop fluoridating by last February, she said, but they planned to announce the change once the remaining supply runs out.

Kip Duchon, national fluoridation engineer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed there had been a shortage around the time of the decision.

A possible cause of the shortage is increased demand for the chemical on the West Coast, where a major California utility began fluoridating water in October.

But since the beginning of the year, Duchon said, fluoride has become more readily available.

“Right now,” Duchon said, “the supply’s out there and you can purchase it if you want it.”

Still, Hazard said county officials have no plans to restart fluoridation. She estimated that ending it will save the county about $100,000 annually.

Officials in nearby counties, including Orange, said they do not plan to end their fluoridation programs. Volusia officials said they have never added the chemical to the water supply.

Health advocates have argued for and against water fluoridation for years. While many dental professionals hail the chemical’s tooth-strengthening properties, some scientists argue that adding the chemical to water is unnecessary because children receive enough of it from other sources such as toothpaste.

“We know from years of experience and scientific study that community water fluoridation benefits everyone,” ADA President Mark Feldman said in a statement July 10. He called it “the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”

Others disagree, including Arvid Carlsson, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2000.

“Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology,” Carlsson said in a July 17 statement. “It’s really obsolete.”

Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at auribarri@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6269.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

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