Feb 142005
Authors: Lila Hickey

CWA Meetings:

Wed. Wednesday at 7:00 pm A Place for Peace 1605 West Mulberry Ave.

Tues. Mar. 9th at 7:00 pm: Fort Collins Main Library (Peterson St.)

Tues. Mar. 15 at 9:00 am: Kiwanis Golden Meeting at the Fort Collins Senior Center

Wed. Mar 22 at 7:00 pm: Fort Collins Harmony Library


Fort Collins water comes from an incredibly pure source, said Thomas G. Sanders, former chair of the Water Board and an associate professor of civil engineering.

But Sanders doesn't drink it.

"I don't drink Fort Collins water if I can avoid it," Sanders said. "I drink bottled water."

Sanders chooses to do this because of the hydrofluorosilicic acid added to the water at the city's water treatment plant.

Hydrofluorosilicic acid, a byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing, has long been added to the water in many U.S. towns. It contains fluoride, which strengthens teeth, preventing broken teeth and cavities.

But for the Clean Water Advocates, a Fort Collins group devoted to removing fluoride from the city's water, the potential risks are greater than the benefits.

The Clean Water Advocates successfully petitioned to take the vote to city residents. A vote over fluoridation will be on the citywide ballot, mailed on approximately March 22.

"(Hydrofluorosilicic acid) is a waste (product) that's never been approved by the (Food and Drug Administration) for oral ingestion. It's never been approved as a food or drug," said CWA President Pati Caputto.

The CWA was created after the city-appointed Fluoride Technical Study Group recommended continuing fluoridation. But two members of the study group were concerned about fluoridation, Caputto said.

The Larimer County Board of Health endorsed the study group's report in a letter to the city manager. The Water Board, however, advised the council against fluoridation in the water.

The board did recommend that the city test batches of fluoride for toxic substances to show citizens that diluted acid is not dangerous, said Dr. Frank Vertucci, president of the board and a member of the study group.

"The technical study had a minority report as well and were hardly gushing with either confidence or enthusiasm for their findings," said council member David Roy, who voted against fluoridation. "I have some concerns about the elements that make up the fluoride supply."

Dr. Bruce Cooper, a member of the study group, said hydrofluorosilicic acid dissolves sufficiently in water to be safe but that the National Toxicology Program is studying its health impact at the request of the concerned citizens.

Research on fluoride is varied. Those who oppose fluoridation say it is linked to many health hazards, including bonding to heavy metals like lead and mercury and carrying them to the brain, while supporters insist fluoride is not a health hazard.

"It's not a risk in terms of cancer or having a medical problem," Vertucci said.

Fluoride can, Vertucci said, be toxic, but only in extremely high doses.

"You can poison yourself with a tube of toothpaste," he said. "The dose makes the difference."

But Caputto worries that fluoridated water, combined with the fluoride in many food products, exceeds recommended intake levels.

The recommended range of fluoride consumption is 1 milligram per day, Caputto said. City water is fluoridated at between .7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter of water, as noted by the board of health's letter to the city manager suggested keeping fluoride levels low because of other fluoride consumption.

One confirmed risk of high fluoride consumption is fluorosis, a discoloration of teeth. Cooper said fluorosis is usually harmless, but severe cases, usually from drinking well water, can damage teeth.

"That kind of fluorosis is associated with actual physical destruction of the teeth," he said.

Fort Collins fluoridation levels are not high enough to cause severe fluorosis, Cooper said.

Caputto believes fluoride may affect humans in ways that have not yet been noticed. She also noted research that found little difference in cavity rates in fluoridated and unfluoridated areas.

"The rates are no better in fluoridated cities than in non-fluoridated," she said.

Fort Collins dentist Dr. John Hanck, who has worked in Fort Collins since 1972, disagreed.

"It's really easy to see who has had the fluoride and who has not, by the amount of decay (on teeth)," he said.

The water advocates' Web site (www.fortcollinsCWA.org) contains a variety of anti-fluoride information. Interested citizens can obtain copies of the study group's report from the Fort Collins city Web site (http://fcgov.com/).

Both sides suggested that concerned citizens read scientific reports on fluoridation's effects.

Caputto has scheduled public meetings to share CWA's concerns with Fort Collins residents. She hopes the information will influence citizens to vote against fluoridation on the citywide ballot.

"I hope the people of Fort Collins will read the information and if they do, they will vote against it," Sanders said.

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