Fluoride in Drinking Water

Fort Wayne’s continued practice of adding fluoride to City tap water follows the recommendations of a variety of organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and professional associations of drinking water providers. In accordance with the positions taken by these science-based groups, Fort Wayne has determined that adding fluoride to drinking water is an economical way to help provide some protection against tooth decay—especially for the members of our community who can most benefit: our young people.

Fluoride & Tooth Decay

North American water systems have been adding fluoride to their water supplies since 1945. According to the American Dental Association, the rate of tooth cavities in children has been reduced substantially where fluoridation has been implemented. Dentists are beginning to suspect that increased use of bottled water may be part of the reason for recent increases in the rate of tooth decay among children. While bottled water is not being blamed for causing tooth decay, most bottled water does not contain enough fluoride to help prevent it. A number of bottled water companies have started adding fluoride to their products because of the health benefits. They have labeled their bottles so that consumers will know if fluoride is present.

CDC Guidelines

Recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in August 2001 and available on the CDC’s website confirm that there are health benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water, especially for children. In a statement on water fluoridation, the CDC says that it continues to strongly support community water fluoridation as a safe and effective public measure to prevent tooth decay and improve overall health. The CDC calls drinking water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The CDC provides guidelines and recommendations for managers of fluoridated water systems to help us establish and maintain appropriate fluoride concentrations. The recommended levels vary on a state-by-state basis but, in general, the CDC suggests that fluoride levels in drinking water should be maintained at around 1.1 milligram per liter (mg/L). According to the CDC, a level as low as 0.2 mg/L can result in a measurable change in the prevalence and severity of tooth decay.

EPA Guidelines

While the EPA has set maximum limit for fluoride in drinking water of 4.0 mg/L, the City of Fort Wayne targets a fluoride concentration in our drinking water of 1.0 mg/L. Fort Wayne conducts regular testing of our tap water to ensure that we do not approach or exceed the EPA’s limit and we are required to notify water customers if the concentration of fluoride does go over the 4.0 mg/L level. It is interesting to note that many municipal water utilities must remove fluoride in order to comply with the limit set by the EPA. Also, in certain places, water coming from private wells has a higher fluoride concentration than the EPA allows in public drinking water supplies.

Water fluoridation continues to be supported by the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.