On October 9, 2017, OWASA will resume fluoridating drinking water for the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community following completion and testing of safety and reliability improvements to the fluoride feed system at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant in Carrboro.
OWASA temporarily ceased fluoridation on February 2, 2017 due to an accidental overfeed of fluoride. The over-fluoridated water was fully contained within the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant. No drinking water with elevated levels of fluoride entered OWASA’s drinking water distribution system. After an independent review of the overfeed event, OWASA developed an action plan including new equipment and monitoring/control improvements in the fluoride feed system. The total cost of the fluoride feed system improvement is $162,000.
In accordance with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Dental Association, NC Division of Public Health, Orange County Board of Health and other organizations, OWASA fluoridates its drinking water to promote dental health. Since 1964, the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community’s drinking water has been fluoridated (OWASA began operation in 1977). Of the 50 largest cities in the United States, 44 (88%) provide fluoridated drinking water. About 75% of the US population served by a community water system received fluoridated water in 2014. OWASA fluoridates drinking water to the level of 0.7 parts per million (ppm) as recommended by the US Public Health Service. The federal limit on fluoride in drinking water is 4 ppm. For more information: fluoridation.
The OWASA Board of Directors appreciates the thoughtful comments received from those who support and those who do not support fluoridation. At the March 9, 2017 meeting, following public comment and careful deliberation, the OWASA Board decided to continue fluoridating drinking water. The primary basis for the OWASA Board’s decision is the recommendations from the agencies noted above that have the scientific data and expertise, and in some cases the statutory responsibility, to advise the public on health issues. The OWASA Board continues to invite public comment about fluoridation or on any of its services and policies.
Comments by public health professionals and organizations regarding fluoridation
- In a letter to OWASA on April 11, 2017, the Orange County Board of Health expressed “utmost support for the continuation of fluoridation” based on recommendations by the CDC, American Dental Association, EPA and NC Division of Public Health.
- Earlier this year, the EPA denied a request by several groups to prohibit fluoridation. On February 17th, the EPA said that the petitioning groups did “not set forth a scientifically defensible basis to conclude that any persons have suffered neurotoxic harm as a result of exposure to fluoride in the U.S. through the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to drinking water or otherwise from fluoride exposure in the U.S.” Link
- The CDC webpage on fluoridation says in part: “Many research studies have proven the safety and benefits of fluoride. For 70 years, people in the United States have benefited from drinking water with fluoride, leading to better dental health. Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults.”
- The US Public Health Service, which recommends fluoride level of 0.7 parts per million (which OWASA follows), states that “Systematic reviews of the scientific evidence related to fluoride have concluded that community water fluoridation is effective in decreasing dental caries prevalence and severity.”
- In a letter to OWASA on February 17, 2017, the NC Division of Health said “Community Water Fluoridation is one of the most important methods to prevent tooth decay in children and adults. It is safe, and equitably distributed to all members of the community. We ask that you continue this important and cost effective public health practice.”
- In a report in June 2013, the Durham County Board of Health said “Members of the panel [of State, local and University of North Carolina officials] and literature reviewing sound scientific research about fluoride, standards for fluoride in drinking water and the importance of fluoridating community water state that community water fluoridation is one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century and the single most important public health measure to prevent dental decay. Furthermore, research has been reported in the literature for more than 65 years that shows community water fluoridation within the proper range is safe for our health and effective in reducing tooth decay.”
- E-mail to OWASA on September 25, 2017 from Jane Weintraub, MPH, DDS, UNC School of Public Health, Alumni Distinguished Professor and former Dean of the UNC School of Dentistry: “Our community has benefited from community water fluoridation to help prevent tooth decay for several generations. Decades of research provide the scientific evidence for this important and effective public health measure. Since science is a continual process of discovery, future rigorous scientific evidence and recommendations should be reviewed as they become available. I applaud OWASA’s approach to review its processes, update its equipment with additional safety measures, and provide current information for the public on its website.”
For more information about fluoridation:
- Tim Wright, DDS, MS, Bawden Distinguished Professor, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, UNC School of Dentistry, 919-537-3216
- Debbye Krueger, Special Care Dentistry and Fluoridation Coordinator, NC Division of Public Health, 919-707-5492 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dorothy Cilenti, Interim Director, Orange County Health Department and Clinical Associate Professor, UNC School of Public Health, 919-843-5427 or email@example.com
- Kristin Prelipp, Communications Manager and Public Information Officer, Orange County Health Department, office: 919.245.2462, mobile: 919.636.8842 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Jane Weintraub, former Dean of UNC School of Dentistry, 919-537-3236 or email@example.com
For more information from OWASA about the improvements to the fluoride feed system:
- Todd Taylor, PE, General Manager of Operations, 919-537-4216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ken Loflin, Water Supply and Treatment Manager, 919-537-4232 or email@example.com
- Monica Dodson, Operations Supervisor, Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant, 919-537-4205 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Katie Harrold, Laboratory Supervisor, Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant, 919-537-4227 or email@example.com