Posts Tagged ‘Chris Jones’February 15, 2011
Municipal tap water in the United States is some of the safest water you can drink. You can go to nearly any city in the country and drink the water without giving its safety a second thought. Nonetheless, many people choose to spend more for bottled water, or to purchase home treatment devices that will presumably modify tap water in a positive way.
No scientific study has ever concluded that bottled water is safer than tap water. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), bottled water regulations are inadequate to assure consumers of either purity or safety. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for bottled water safety, but the FDA’s rules completely exempt waters that are packaged and sold within the same state, which account for 60-70% of all bottled water sold in the United States. Even when bottled waters are covered by the FDA’s rules, they are subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water, which is regulated by Environmental Protection Agency. NRDC testing evaluated 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water. While most of the tested waters were found to be of high quality, about one-third of the waters tested contained levels of contamination – including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.
What about home treatment devices? Some devices can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and some result in a large water waste as high as 40%. Some will treat the water for the entire dwelling, some for one particular tap (kitchen, typically) and some for a receptacle such as a pitcher of water. A myriad of filters are available, and you should educate yourself and decide what your specific objectives are before purchase. It is important to keep in mind that all home water treatment devices need regular maintenance to operate effectively. For example, if filter cartridges are not changed on a regular basis, they can actually begin to harbor odors and tastes, bacteria and other contamination that will actually diminish the quality of the tap water.
A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common point. The 3,600 square miles of the Raccoon River Watershed drains to the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers in downtown Des Moines. The Raccoon River rises in Buena Vista County and travels approximately 200 miles to its mouth. The mainstem of the Raccoon is known as the North Raccoon River in its upper stretches and has two main tributaries: the Middle and South Raccoon Rivers. The Middle Raccoon River begins in northwest Carroll County and flows 76 miles to join the South Raccoon near Redfield, IA. The South Raccoon River starts near the Guthrie-Audubon County line and flows 50 miles until its confluence with the Middle Raccoon. The combined flows of the Middle and South Raccoon join the North Raccoon near Van Meter, a few miles downstream from Redfield.
The watershed mainly lies in the Des Moines Lobe, a remnant of the last Wisconsinan ice age. The Middle Raccoon traces the furthest edge of glacial advance, also known as the terminal moraine. This landscape was shaped only 12,000 years ago, much more recently than the rest of Iowa. Soils are among the most fertile on earth, and 80% of the area is cultivated for corn and soybeans.
In 1844, Captain James Allen and his Dragoon explorers were first Europeans to explore the watershed. His journals describe numerous lakes scattered throughout wet and dry prairie, and bears and elk being killed for food during the expedition. A grizzly bear was spotted on the ridge that separates Beaver Creek from the North Raccoon.
No one alive today has seen the Raccoon River in its natural state. Early settlers transformed the landscape into agricultural land through removal of native plants and systematic drainage, a process that continues to this day. The prairies and wetlands of the region were largely gone by 1900. This landscape modification dramatically altered the character, appearance, and water quality of the river to the extent that the river would be largely unrecognizable to people who saw it prior to 1860.Labels: Chris Jones, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, water quality, Watershed Posted in Water Quality January 7, 2011
Effective Monday, January 10, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) will adjust dosage levels of fluoride such that the final concentration is 0.7 parts per million (ppm) in finished water at both Fleur Drive and L.D. McMullen Treatment Plants. Natural levels of fluoride in DMWW’s source water range from 0.2 to 0.5 ppm.
This adjustment is in accordance to recent recommendations by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Dental Association, American Water Works Association and Iowa Department of Public Health.
According to HHS and EPA, the adjustment will maximize the health benefits of water fluoridation, an important tool in the prevention of tooth decay while reducing the possibility of children receiving too much fluoride.Labels: Chris Jones, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, fluoride, water quality Posted in Fluoride, Water Quality, Water Treatment January 3, 2011
Legality of Fluoridation
Fluoridation of municipal drinking water has aroused some controversy from its beginnings in 1945. Determined people have questioned its effectiveness, safety, and legality. Most scientists, dentists, and physicians are satisfied that the effectiveness and safety questions have been resolved. Some people, however, still object to fluoridation from the perspective that it denies them a legally protected choice.
There is a Constitutional basis for fluoridation. The preamble states the purpose of government is “to promote the general welfare.” The 10th Amendment gives to the states all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government, and this includes control of public health legislation. The development of public health law illustrates the conflict between individual rights and the greater good. Historically, the courts have sided with the greater good on issues of public health, two examples being vaccinations and quarantines. The same legal basis supports our regulations on toxic air emissions, timber harvesting, and wastewater discharges.
The courts have rejected opposition arguments based on the pursuit of happiness and personal liberty, the right to privacy, and forced medication (violation of the principle of informed consent). In Rogowski v. City of Detroit, the court held that it was “common knowledge” that fluoridation is beneficial, and “the fact that a belief is not universal is not controlling, for there is scarcely any belief that is accepted by everyone.” An Oklahoma court found that fluoridation is “no more practicing medicine or dentistry than a mother would be who furnishes her children a well-balanced diet.” The courts have recognized the similarity of water fluoridation and disinfection with chlorine, a practice which has been upheld in the courts many times. The U.S. Supreme Court has never chosen to hear an appeal regarding the legality of fluoridation, with six cases dismissed because they did not warrant the court’s attention, and seven cases dismissed for lack of a substantial “federal question.”
Science works best within its structure of hypothesis, experiment, theory, interpretation and publication. Its likely fluoridation has been more rigorously evaluated by this process than any other public health measure, and this has been recognized by our courts and elected bodies.
DMWW continues to stay current with all the latest research and regulations regarding fluoride. This is the final article in a series of five. Links to previous articles are below. Thanks for reading!
Safety of Fluoridation
Fluoridation of municipal drinking water has aroused some controversy from its beginnings in 1945. There is no doubt high concentrations of fluoride are toxic to the human body. But it’s important to remember that the toxicity of any material depends on the dose amount and the exposure duration. In the case of municipal water fluoridation, the overwhelming weight of evidence shows the dose (~1 part per million) to be safe.
It is interesting that the fluoride controversy through the decades reflects the medical concerns of the day. Early on, concerns focused on a possible fluoride connection with Down’s syndrome. Present day concerns focus more on allergies and cancer.
When the entire body of information is examined, there is simply no statistical evidence that fluoridation has caused any significant decline in societal health. On the contrary, the period in which fluoride exposure has been increasing has been a period of steady health improvement in the U.S. Age-adjusted mortality rates for almost all diseases, including heart disease and most cancers, have been decreasing. The notable exceptions are lung cancer and melanoma, which are lifestyle diseases.
Well-constructed experiments have generated data that imply research should continue on fluoride’s possible side effects. DMWW and the water industry will continue to examine and react to this research. But at the current time, the weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports continued fluoridation of municipal drinking water. There really is no controversy right now among the medical and water industry establishments.
We do know that good dental health is important to our overall physical well being. Good teeth enable us to eat a healthy diet throughout our life and into old age, helping lengthen our lifespan. Fluoridation of municipal drinking water is endorsed by:
- American Dental Association
- American Medical Association
- American Heart Association
- American Cancer Society
- American Water Works Association
- Centers for Disease Control
Every U.S. Surgeon General and every sitting President since Kennedy have publicly endorsed fluoridation. As the Centers for Disease Control has recognized, municipal drinking water fluoridation is one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Watershed, catchment, and drainage basin are all the same thing: an area of land that drains to a common point. Small watersheds drain into larger watersheds in a hierarchical pattern. For example, the Mississippi River Watershed is comprised of hundreds of other smaller sub-watersheds.
The City of Des Moines is located at the bottom of two large catchments: the Raccoon and the Upper Des Moines River watersheds. These are two of the 42 largest sub-watersheds in the Mississippi River basin. Water draining from more than 5 million acres, from as far away as Jackson, MN, flows through the city. Des Moines Water Works treats water from both rivers to provide Des Moines Area residents with drinking water.
Knowledge of Iowa’s geological history and current land uses are necessary to understand each river and its water quality. Both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers flow through and drain the Des Moines Lobe Landform. It was here that a glacier covered the landscape only 12,000 years ago. The weather warmed and the disintegrating ice sheet formed the prairie pothole region that was once home to uncounted millions of waterfowl. After the glacier melted, the landscape was colonized by tallgrass prairie and wetland plants that helped form the region’s tremendously rich soil. The rivers ran clear and cold as rain water was naturally filtered through the perennial vegetation.
The early European settlers found the region nearly uninhabitable due to the swampy landscape and swarms of mosquitoes. A few decades after arrival, they realized that the soils formed under such conditions were ideal for the cultivation of corn. But first, large scale drainage was necessary. Networks of porous drainage pipes (now known as tile) were buried to lower the water table and dry out the soil. These were connected to constructed drainage ditches, essentially forming hundreds of new streams where none previously existed. This enormous project was mostly complete by 1920, although farmers continue to connect into and improve the system in the present day.
Constructed drainage and replacement of perennial vegetation with annual crops turned Iowa into the world’s richest agricultural region. But altering the natural hydrological system also had an impact on water quality in Iowa’s streams, this is will be discussed in the next piece in this series.Labels: Chris Jones, Des Moines River, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Raccoon River, Source Water, water quality, Watershed Posted in Water Quality November 3, 2010
How Fluoride Works
Archeologists know that tooth decay was rare in human beings until the Renaissance, when refined sugar became available to wealthy people. The problem became epidemic during the industrial revolution as sugar consumption increased among the entire population of industrialized societies. Queen Elizabeth I was known to have a fondness for sugar, and suffered greatly from tooth decay.
Until 1757, medical practitioners believed cavities were caused by worms. In 1556 Pope John XXI recommended inhalation of smoke from burning henbane seeds to kill the worms and assuage the pain. When dentistry became a recognized profession, researchers zeroed in on two potential causes for tooth decay: 1) bacteria, and 2) diet. It turns out both causes are correct.
The bacterium Streptococcus mutans colonizes tooth surfaces, forming plaque. They metabolize and ferment sugar, releasing acid in the process. The acid dissolves the mineral apatite which comprises tooth enamel, forming a cavity.
Fluoride forms a complex with the apatite mineral of the tooth enamel. The fluoro-apatite complex is much more acid-resistant than normal apatite, and forms a protective veneer on the teeth. Fluoro-apatite forms much more quickly than the body can naturally re-mineralize the teeth.
The original fluoride researchers felt the protective mechanism was entirely systemic (within the body). This has proved to be wrong. The primary protection mechanism is now known to be topical (on the surface of the tooth), but evidence for systemic protection continues to be revealed by research. An October 2010 article appearing in the American Journal of Public Health reports a strong relationship between fluoride levels in a resident’s county at the time of their birth, with tooth loss as an adult. It seems that fluoride exposure at birth affects tooth loss at age 40 and older, which is evidence for a systemic mechanism.
Fluoridation of municipal drinking water at safe levels (~1 part per million) provides dental protection through both topical and systemic mechanisms. This has helped reduce rates of tooth decay in the U.S. to the frequency archeologists observe in skeletons from 1000 years ago.
The history of fluoridated water is like many of the great scientific findings throughout the ages. It started with an observation.
Archeologists have long known that tooth decay is a modern problem that was rare until the Renaissance, when refined sugar became available to wealthy people. The problem reached epidemic proportions during the industrial revolution, when income levels grew to the point that sugar could be purchased by nearly everyone in an industrialized society.
During the 1870s, scientists and physicians began to notice that people living in some areas of the world seemed immune to tooth decay. Many of these same people also had brown-stained teeth. One of the first cities where this was observed was Naples, Italy. Medical examiners on Ellis Island also noticed many Italian immigrants with this same phenomenon. Similar observations were made in the American West, especially amongst miners in the gold fields of Colorado. It was eventually determined after many years of study that the water these people were drinking contained very high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride, which found its way into groundwater wells via the mineral deposits of the local area.
Researchers determined that these people were getting too much fluoride, and this caused the brown staining which is now known as dental fluorosis. The water they were drinking contained as much as 30 parts per million (ppm) of the element. Studies eventually determined that the optimum drinking water concentration which delivered protection from cavities but did not produce fluorosis was about 1 ppm.
Water intentionally fluoridated at the 1 ppm (parts per million) level was first produced in four cities in 1945: Grand Rapids, MI; Newburgh, NY; Evanston, IL; and Brantford, Ontario. These trials were overseen by an eminent scientist of time, H. Trendley Dean. The results were profound: a 40% reduction in cavities in four years, and up to 57% within 15 years.
It was near the end of this 15-year study, in 1959, that Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) began fluoridating water delivered to Des Moines and surrounding areas. Natural levels of fluoride are supplemented during treatment so that water leaves the treatment plants with the optimum level of 1 ppm.
This article is the first in a series of five articles addressing the subject of fluoride in City water. Please leave a comment, and come back to read the next articles in the series. Thanks for reading!