Shortsighted cost saving combined with shaky assumptions, fuzzy math and a whiff of conspiracy theory will deprive Village of Saukville residents of a significant health benefit.
The Saukville Village Board voted two weeks ago to end the long-standing service of adding fluoride to the municipal water supply.
Trustees based the decision mainly on avoiding the cost of providing fluoridation equipment for a new village water well, but because of it village residents will be less able to avoid increased financial and physical dental-health costs.
The decision takes away from Saukville residents a proven aid to health that is provided by 75% of the nation’s municipal water utilities. In a definitive report on fluoridation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control summarizes decades of findings by dental health authorities and panels of scientists:
“For children younger than age 8, fluoride helps strengthen the permanent teeth that are developing under the gums. For adults, drinking water with fluoride supports tooth enamel, keeping teeth strong and healthy.”
In recommending a stop to fluoridation, the village Utility Committee cited an odd statistic suggesting that people drink only 4% of Saukville’s municipal water. Water used for drinking isn’t metered, of course, so that would be a guess. Saukville residents no doubt drink about the same percentage of the municipal water supply as people in any community, and whether that number is 4% or 40% is irrelevant. Some of the village supply is consumed by humans and is therefore an effective medium to deliver the dental health benefits of fluoride.
Officials said the decision was supported as well by assumptions that residents will get an ample amount of dental health benefit from fluoride found naturally in Saukville’s water and from toothpastes that contain the compound. The American Dental Association, which since 1950 has endorsed fluoridation as “safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay,” disagrees.
Also discussed in the consideration of discontinuing fluoride treatment were complaints from a few residents based on discredited fears of the dangers said to be lurking in drinking water with added fluoride.
According to Saukville Water Supt. Dale Kropidlowski, the village has received calls from people claiming fluoridated water impairs thyroid function, lowers the IQs of young children and increases the risk of bone cancer in boys.
Fluoridation has been wrongly blamed for many ills of the body, including Down syndrome and heart disease, and even for some ills of society. Conspiracy theorists have raved that the government has been covering up the health menace of fluoridation and those of the more crackpot variety have gone so far as to claim that putting fluoride in public water supplies is a government plot to somehow subvert American values.
In the words of the CDC, scientific investigations “have found no convincing link between water fluoridation and any adverse health effect.” The government agency, in fact, lists fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements in the past 70 years.
There’s a fair amount of science denial going around these days, but it should not be allowed to have any influence on a decision concerning a health benefit as valuable as fluoridated water.
Fluoridation has been studied so thoroughly that a veritable mountain of data about it has been accumulated, including a study that determined that each dollar spent on fluoridation saves at least $38 in dental treatment costs.
Saukville residents are about to lose that savings along with an effective aid to dental health. Even allowing for the few pennies on a water bill that might be saved by not installing fluoridation equipment for the new well, that doesn’t sound like a very good deal.
Taking away a health service from which Saukville residents have benefitted for many years can only be characterized as a backward turn. That is not the direction an otherwise progressive community like Saukville should be going.
There is still time for the Village Board to reverse this bad decision.