Tests of fluoride inadequate, water plant boss says

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This image is from North West Utility District in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., which votes Tuesday on ending fluoridation.

This image is from the website of North West Utility District in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., which votes Tuesday on a recommendation to end fluoridation.

Overseers of the North West Utility District in Soddy-Daisy are hearing from members of the public about fluoridation, a longstanding program that costs every ratepayer mere F$3 a year but has untold costs to long-human health.

Residents are submitting comments to the utility’s website after reading media coverage about the longstanding controversy over the chemical additive.

By David Tulis

Unlikely to be satisfied in time for the vote is the quest of manager David Collett to get test results on flouride beyond what is routinely and sketchily provided. He wants details about various forms of pollution — lead, arsenic, mercury — that comprise fluoride, the waste product from the fertilizer industry.

‘Just playing games’

The district’s fluoride gets a pass from National Safety Foundation, or NSF, and also a passing mark from American Water Works Association, comprised of water districts such as NWUD.

The NSF approval is based on a 1-liter bottle of fluoride sent for a test, says Soddy-Daisy plant manager Steve Roark. That’s one test a year, not a regular sampling of fluoride. The NSF reports arsenic and mercury in the fluoride, but not at what levels.

“They’re just playing games,” Mr. Roark says.  “They just give it a pass down the side.”

“I’m hoping they vote to do away with it,” he says. “I think the biggest problem I have with it is that people really don’t have a choice whether they want to get this fluoride or not. And there’re other ways of getting it if you really want it. I just don’t think when you’re forcing people to drink it  — I don’t want it in my water. I just don’t feel that anybody’s forcing me to take a medication I don’t want. I’m a consumer of the water, too. I don’t think it’s right to put it in the water.”

Conservative manager serves board

Mr. Collett, the general manager, handles everything from leaks to payroll. The proposal to end fluoridation is his. He says fluoridation is voluntary, is not a requirement under any law, and is done without the any assumption of liability by the manufacturer and distributor of fluoride.

If board members want to stay on the side of caution and be conservative, they should end the practice, he suggests.

The cautious and conservative thing to do, Mr. Collett suggests, is to get out of the controversy and halt the $20,000 annual fluoride program. As long as one injects fluoride acid into the water, one is remaining within the controversy.

Perhaps more than any lobbying by dentists, inertia and routine play into pressure to keep up the fluoride injections into the water supply. The board has seven members: Jack Cain, Hugh Coulter, Jim Farmer, Phyllis Marr, Bill McGriff, Jeff Templeton and Carlos Wilson. Most of them appear to pass 60 years of age.

The TN Coalition for Safe Drinking Water says that  40 percent of the 458 water systems in Tennessee abstain from the practice (184).

“The FDA does not approve it as a drug for ingestion,” says Karyn French, a Brentwood, Tenn., nurse and an organizer. “The EPA does not approve adding it to water. The CDC (specifically the oral health division made up of ADA and NDA dentists) supports it 100% but not for children under 8 years old. The effect, if any, is topical only.”

Does Hamilton County deserve fluoride in its water? Other stories

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