At the December 3, 2013, Board of Water Works Trustees’ Planning Committee meeting, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) staff announced the utility, which serves approximately 500,000 customers in Central Iowa, will continue community water fluoridation at the current level of 0.7 mg/L.
“Staff has reviewed currently available data and the data overwhelmingly supports that fluoridation of drinking water at current levels does not pose a detectable health risk,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “From these findings, together with the health and economic benefits provided, staff concludes that the current levels of fluoride delivered to our customers (0.7 mg/L) is appropriate for public health and is consistent with the balance of scientific and medical opinion currently available.”
The issue was opened up for public comment at the October committee meeting and staff solicited comments, research and studies on fluoridation. Unlike other providers of drinking water, including private water companies and corporate bottled water providers, DMWW actively sought and received public comment and engaged in public discussions, providing transparency in its process, inviting the public to provide their opinions and point toward scientific data or studies. As anticipated, the solicitation of public comments drew significant interest and elicited many emotional responses. Approximately 650 comments were received. Comments can be viewed online at http://www.dmww.com/water-quality/fluoride-comments/.
Community water fluoridation is supported by more than 100 national and international health, service, and professional organizations. A few of these supporters are American Dental Association (ADA), American Medical Association (AMA), American Water Works Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization. The CDC proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
“Des Moines Water Works continuously reviews its water treatment and distribution practices to ensure both regulatory compliance and economic delivery of safe, affordable, and abundant drinking water,” said Stowe. “Processes are dynamic, and as new science becomes available, DMWW will adjust accordingly; however, the clear weight of peer-reviewed scientific evidence shows that fluoridated water, at proper levels, safely and effectively reduces tooth decay in children and adults.”
Numerous studies have also shown the cost benefits of fluoridation. One study, “An economic evaluation of community water fluoridation,” has shown every dollar spent on fluoridation can save residents $38.00 in dental costs. DMWW spends approximately $130,000 annually in direct costs for water fluoridation.
Anti-fluoridation proponents point toward several concerns about adding fluoride to public water supplies. However, studies citing significant health detriment have been based on fluoride concentrations well beyond the current levels of 0.7 mg/L. This level of fluoridation is supported by the AMA, ADA, CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, and Iowa Department of Public Health. DMWW’s policy of fluoridation through the public water system supports its mission of providing safe and quality drinking water for the public health of its community.
The Board of Water Works Trustees will hold their regularly scheduled meeting, which includes a public comment period, on December 17, at 3:30 p.m. at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, located at 909 Robert D. Ray Drive.