OWASA will continue fluoridating water in southern Orange County

jporter@newsobserver.comJune 18, 2013 

— An agency serving southern Orange County will continue to fluoridate its drinking water, and the Durham County Board of Health has recommended that Durham do the same.

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors voted 8-0 last week to continue to fluoridate but “stay abreast of scientific developments, changes in best management practices and accepted public health practices and recommendations regarding fluoridation.”

OWASA supplies drinking water to Carrboro, Chapel Hill and the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The agency fluoridates water “to help prevent tooth decay, as recommended by the American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, N.C. Division of Public Health, N.C. Public Water Supply Section and other public health-related organizations,” according to its website.

In Durham, where a group had also asked the city to stop fluoridating, the county’s Board of Health approved a subcommittee’s recommendation to continue the practice. The recommendation now goes to the Durham City Council.

Nearly 90 percent of North Carolina residents who drink from local water systems drink fluoridated water. It has been standard practice in most North Carolina counties for 50 years.

But residents in both counties had asked the water systems to stop. Fluoride opponents asked OWASA leaders to read “The Case Against Fluoride,” which argues that fluoride is potentially hazardous to human health and doesn’t prevent tooth decay as much as once thought.

An OWASA subcommittee read and discussed the book in May, and voted unanimously to recommend the full board uphold its practice.

Dr. Gary Slade, professor and director of the Oral Epidemiology Ph.D. program at the UNC School of Dentistry, recently co-authored an Australian study that concluded that adding fluoride to drinking water reduces tooth decay in adult men and women. There is no known scientific evidence linking controlled amounts with adverse health effects in humans. In countries where there is too much fluoride in the water, however, it can blacken teeth and cause bone problems, he said.

“If Orange County was to remove fluoride from the drinking water, that would mean that a bunch of people would have no choice in a certain aspect of their health because it’s pretty much impossible to buy bottled fluoridated water,” Slade said last week. “Someone can currently buy bottled water without fluoride, or they can put a filter on that is able to remove fluoride. If fluoride is taken out of the water, the opposite does not apply.”

Corey Sturmer, an anti-fluoride activist, said the group is considering its next steps.

“They can’t prevent us from bringing this issue back to the OWASA board, so we are going to pursue a lawsuit against OWASA in Chapel Hill and also go back to the board and create a new petition for them to discuss the issue,” Sturmer said Tuesday. “It’s not the end.”

Porter: 919-0593-7884

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