Monday, April 04, 2011

Level of fluoride in water depends on source

Q: I read that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced plans to lower the agency's maximum recommended fluoride level from 1.2 milligrams per liter of water to 0.7. Can you tell me the fluoride content of Blacksburg water? And maybe Christiansburg and Radford?

-- B.R. Culbertson, Blacksburg

A: Fluoride has been added to municipal water sources since the 1940s as a form of cavity prevention. Since then, fluoride has also been added to some types of bottled water, juice and sports drinks. But overexposure to fluoride can be toxic. According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on health and environmental issues, too much fluoride can cause mottling and loss of tooth enamel, joint pain, stiffness, and fractures.

Since 2005, the environmental group has been lobbying the federal government and municipal water providers to lower the recommended levels of fluoride in drinking water. In January, Sebelius said the agency would lower its recommended maximum fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would review the amount of fluoride that it will allow in drinking water.

The Blacksburg-Christiansburg-VPI Water Authority draws water from the New River, purifies it and then wholesales it to municipalities in the New River Valley. In January 2010, the most recent statistics on the Water Authority website, average fluoride content was 0.96 milligrams per liter of water.

Superintendent Manager Jerry Higgins said the U.S. recommendation isn't an official mandate. But the water authority does expect to reduce the fluoride content in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg system to 0.7 milligrams per liter if the government sets a lower limit, Higgins said.

The 2009 water quality report from the city of Radford reported 0.92 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. Superintendent Lawrence Rice said Radford will wait for a U.S. mandate before deciding whether to lower the fluoride level.

The Western Virginia Water Authority serves Roanoke, Roanoke County and Franklin County. Gary Robertson, executive director for water operations, said the authority decided to lower its fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter after the January recommendation.

Got a question? Got an answer? Call Bridget Bradburn at 777-6476 or send an email to whatsonyourmind@roanoke.com. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.

Look for Bridget Bradburn's column on Mondays.

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