City discusses removing fluoride from water

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — A fourth Middle Tennessee city is discussing whether to remove fluoride from the municipal water supply.

Columbia Power and Water System Manager Wes Kelley told The Columbia Daily Herald ( that the issue has sparked opposition from health officials and dentists, though it has gotten support from some residents.

The utility board is mulling the proposal for a couple of reasons. Kelley said fluoride provides no water purification benefit, but it cost $40,000 annually to add it to the supply. In addition, he said the chemical is hazardous to employees who handle it.

Dentists and health officials are urging the utility to keep adding the mineral to the water, noting that it prevents tooth decay.

The board plans to vote on the matter on Sept. 25.

“So far, I’ve not heard from a lot of public at large,” Kelley said recently. “I’ve heard from some. Some people say thank you for taking it out of the water, but we haven’t taken it out — we’re still discussing it. I think there are certainly people on both sides of the issue.”

The city’s water supply has had fluoride added since the 1960s. City officials used to mandate the use of fluoride, but city attorney Tim Tisher said they changed earlier this year when the city’s water code was revised.

“The city council doesn’t need to be regulating fluoride content because they don’t have any idea how much to regulate,” Tisher said.

The utility now has control over how much of which chemicals should be added to the city’s water.

“The board is really just weighing this out —what is the best thing to do,” Kelley said.

Dentist Andy Woodard said children and the elderly gain the biggest benefits from water fluoridation, as well as people who can’t afford dental care.

“They need all the help they can get to keep from losing their teeth. This is just so simple,” Woodard said.

Columbia pediatric dentist James Hutton said he would expect to see more kids with cavities if the fluoride is removed.

“The benefits of children having fluoridated water far outweigh any risks because the kids are forming their teeth,” Hutton said.


Information from: The Daily Herald,

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