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By Echo Menges
A local dentist, Dr. Lisa Bosch of rural Knox County, is pushing the Clarence Cannon Wholesale Water Commission (CCWWC) to return to adding fluoride to the water sent to customers throughout the region. Her campaign to put fluoride back into the drinking water began nearly a year ago.
“Shortly after I moved here, I started looking to make sure that there was community fluoridation in the water here. I contacted the Department of Health and Senior Services first. Then, I was able to do some research to find out we got our water from Clarence Cannon and community water fluoridation was discontinued in 2011 without any notification to the public. I’ve been going to water board meetings throughout the state and some directors of those districts thought they were still receiving fluoridated water. They didn’t know it was taken out,” Dr. Lisa Bosch told The Edina Sentinel. “In 2016 the state legislature passed a law that water suppliers have to give a 90-day notice to add or subtract fluoride from community water. That’s what we are dead-center in right now.”
What is fluoride?
According to the Center for Disease Control, fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral released from rocks into the soil, water and air. All water has fluoride in it, though, it usually doesn’t contain enough of the mineral to be effective in fighting tooth decay.
According to the CDC’s website, “Bacteria in the mouth produce acid when a person eats sugary foods. This acid eats away minerals from the tooth’s surface, making the tooth weaker and increasing the chance of developing cavities. Fluoride helps to rebuild and strengthen the tooth’s surface, or enamel. Water fluoridation prevents tooth decay by providing frequent and consistent contact with low levels of fluoride. By keeping the tooth strong and solid, fluoride stops cavities from forming and can even rebuild the tooth’s surface.”
How much fluoride would be added to the water?
“Toothpaste has 1,000 to 1,500 parts per million (PPM) of fluoride. Community water fluoridation has 0.7 PPM. Adding fluoride to drinking water is the most effective way to deliver the right amount of fluoride to every member of the community to reduce cavities for all,” said Bosch.
Why isn’t fluoride in the water already?
In 2008, the CCWWC stopped adding fluoride to the water for their customers briefly because of a maintenance issue, according to CCWWC General Manager Heath Hall.
“In the minutes for that fiscal year, there were large increases in chemical pricing. I assume that had something to do with the discontinuing of fluoride. The plant personnel remember that we had some maintenance issues with feed pump failures as well. I assume that there was going to be some cost in replacing the pump and maybe other equipment,” said Hall, who did not work for the CCWWC at the time.
According to the CCWWC meeting minutes on May 11, 2011, it was decided to stop feeding fluoride into the system by the board of appointed water customer representatives following a recommendation to stop fluoride by then General Manager Mark McNally due to “controversy”, which was never explained in the minutes. The meeting minutes also offered that the discontinuance of fluoride for CCWWC customers would be a cost savings of $10,000 annually.
Only 14 of 23 board representatives were present for the meeting. The vote to stop fluoridating the water was 12 to one in favor of ceasing fluoriation with the one person opposed to stopping fluoridation – then Edina Mayor David Strickler, Jr.
“I do remember it, yes. It was kind of a minor detail at the meeting and I was surprised,” David Strickler, Jr., told The Edina Sentinel about the 2011 vote to stop fluoridation at the CCWWC. “We’d had fluoride for years and years and years – decades. I remember I was one of very few saying ‘Why do we need to stop?’ I was opposed to dropping the fluoride.”
Strickler said he hopes fluoride will be put back into the water and CCWWC Board members will vote to put it back in.
Who is affected?
“Our overall population in the CCWWC service area is roughly 74,000 people,” said Bosch. “This is 14 counties with 23 primary water systems and four secondary systems.”
According to CCWWC member systems data, the following water districts and systems pull from the CCWWC:
City of Bowling Green
City of Curryville
City of Edina
City of Farber
City of Huntsville
Knox County PWSD #1
City of LaBelle
Lewis County PWSD #1
City of Lewistown
City of Madison
Marion County PWSD #1
Monroe County PWSD #2
City of New London
City of Paris
City of Perry
Pike County PWSD #1
Shelby County PWSD #1
City of Shelbyville
Thomas Hill PWSD #1
City of Vandalia
City of Wellsville
CCWWC Secondary Systems include:
City of Clarence
City of Frankfort
City of Higbee
City of Hunnewell
How much will it cost?
According to Bosch, grant funding has been obtained to pay the costs of reinstating water fluoridation at the CCWWC through the DHSS Office of Dental Health. The grant funds will pay for two skids with pumps costing $21,553, one year of testing supplies costing $2,080, and the fluoride costing $8,000. The $31,633 total will be incurred by grand funding the first year. After that, the CCWWC will be responsible to fund fluoridation and maintain the pumps.
“The cost for the next fiscal year is roughly a penny per thousand gallons. It saves consumers $32 in dental care for every $1 invested in water fluoridation, according to oralhealth. mo.gov. They have all of the research on their page – if anyone wants to check out the research,” said Bosch.
Bosch has gone to work doing more than informing water customers throughout the CCWWC service area about the importance of fluoridated water. She has also partnered with Gwen Sullentrop at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Division of Oral Health to figure out how to pay to bring it back through the CCWWC.
“Working with Gwen and the DHSS, we’ve been able to get all the grant money needed to replace the pump, a new tote that holds the fluoride, and all of the fluoride for the next year,” said Bosch.
How soon will we know if the water is going to be fluoridated?
Currently, the CCWWC is in the public comment portion of the process of deciding whether to put fluoride back into the water. The earliest opportunity for board representatives to vote on the option will be on May 11, 2022, remarkably exactly 11 years after deciding to stop fluoride.
“The main thing is the board is considering feeding fluoride. We’re in the public comment period. If you’re for or against it, we’d like to know. People are more than welcome to call the plant at 573-672-3221. They can also write a letter,” said Hall.
Letters in support or opposition to adding fluoride to the water can be mailed to: 34146 Route U, Stoutsville, MO 65283. Or emailed to hhall@ clarencecannonwater.org
Fighting Misinformation about Fluoride in Water Systems
According to Bosch, there has been an uptick in misinformation surrounding fluoride in water. She hopes community members from throughout the CCWWC service area will do their own research and look at the science for themselves.
“Fluoride is a natural element that exists in the earth. It’s in oceans, it’s in groundwater and in river water. It occurs the most in groundwater. It has been put into community water and studied since the 1940’s. There’s over 77 years of research and over 7,000 studies.
“The CDC named water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the twentieth century. There are also over 100 national health organizations that recognize the public health benefits of water fluoridation in preventing dental decay including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Health Association, and the World Health Organization.
“Over 75 percent of Missouri’s water systems currently fluoridate their water, which is right in line with the rest of the nation. That 75 percent of the nation, and Missouri, that has water fluoridation do not show adverse health effects compared to the group that does not. – only increased decay rates.
“These are my three main points. That it’s effective by simply having access to community water fluoridation research has shown a 25 percent decrease in cavities for both adults and children. That it’s safe. There are no adverse health effects associated with fluoride at the levels used for community water fluoridation. To elaborate on that, toothpaste has 1,000 to 1,500 ppm of fluoride. Community water fluoridation has 0.7 ppm. And lastly, that it’s cost effective. It’s the most effective way to deliver the right amount of fluoride to every member of the community to reduce cavities for all. It evens the playing field for those with the means to see a dentist regularly and those who cannot.
“You can’t have good overall health without good oral health. The mouth is connected to the rest of the body,” said Bosch.