November 27th, 2013
The issue of water fluoridation has bubbled up in Des Moines, more than 50 years after the practice began.
Although fluoridation is common throughout the country as a way to reduce tooth decay and has been the practice in Des Moines since 1959, some people strongly oppose the practice.
Because the use of fluoride remains controversial, the utility sought public comments beginning in October and continuing through Saturday. Water works Chief Executive Officer Bill Stowe told The Des Moines Register that sentiment is running 3-1 against adding fluoride to water, with some people passionately stating their opinions.
“You sometimes see opposition to rate increases, but you don’t get this kind of heat and fire,” Stowe said. “It’s an issue that some people feel very passionately about.”
The Des Moines City Council required the water works to fluoridate the water in 1959 after the American Dental Association and health agencies recommended the practice. The amount of fluoride added to Des Moines’ water was reduced slightly in 2010.
Dentists and some health experts contend fluoridation dramatically reduces tooth decay. Opponents argue fluoridation has harmful consequences and amounts to forced medication of people.
The issue has been raised elsewhere in Iowa. In April the Hampton City Council decided to continue adding fluoride to city water. The mayor had raised objections to fluoridation, saying that adding such medicine infringed on the rights of residents.
Many of the comments submitted to the water works were similar to Brandon Brown’s suggestion, which stated, “Get it out of our water!! So many people are against this. There is a lot of evidence that it’s bad for us.”
However, public health agencies state that fluoridation is safe and has been part of remarkable improvements in dental care. They note that in the early 1960s, about 20 percent of people in their mid-50s had lost all their teeth. That figure is now less than 10 percent.
“Tooth loss is no longer considered inevitable, and increasingly adults in the United States are retaining most of their teeth for a lifetime,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The water works staff has recommended retaining fluoridation until a majority of scientific opinion opposes the practice.