District News Articles

  2. On Jan.  7, 2011, the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed changes to the standards and guidelines on fluoride in drinking water.  Addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies is recommended by Centers for Disease Control, HHS, and the American Dental Association to help prevent tooth decay, particularly in children.  It was recognized by the CDC as one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
    The agency is lowering the recommended concentration of fluoride from a range of 0.7–1.2 mg/L to a flat 0.7 mg/L.  This is the first change to HHS’s position on fluoride in nearly 50 years.
    What Does This Mean For Denver Water?
    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has encouraged fluoridation of water for years at a concentration of 0.9 mg/L, and that is the standard Denver Water has followed.  The South Platte River has some naturally occurring fluoride, which occasionally is high enough that Denver Water does not have to supplement.
    CDPHE has not yet changed their recommendation, but Denver Water decided to make a change effective immediately and did so Jan.  7, 2011.  Denver Water notified CDPHE to let them know they were doing it.  Their new target concentration will be 0.6–0.7 mg/L.
    These proposed changes are still just recommendations.  HHS will post the information in the Federal Register for a 30-day comment period.  EPA and the ADA have endorsed the recommendation, so it is likely to pass.
    Denver Water continues to follow the recommended guidelines of the organizations that have researched and recommended fluoridation of water for more than 50 years.
    Fluoride In Denver’s Water
    Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound in Denver Water’s source water.  It enters the water when fluoride-rich minerals in soils and rock dissolve.  The natural background fluoride concentrations for Denver’s source water typically ranges from 0.08 mg/L to 0.90 mg/L.  The water treatment process removes a small amount of naturally occurring fluoride. 
    Fluoride is supplemented at Denver Water’s treatment plants only when the concentrations in Denver’s drinking water fall below the levels recommended by the U.S.  Public Health Service and supported by the U.S.  Surgeon General’s Office, the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). 
    The new target level for fluoride in Denver’s drinking water is 0.7 mg/L.  A milligram per liter is equivalent to one part per million, or the equivalent of one drop of water in 55 gallons of water, or one person out of a million Denver citizens, or one minute out of two years. 
    The cost of adding fluoride varies year to year and depends on the source water used, but is less than $1.50 per million gallons. 
    Health Impacts
    Studies by the U.S. Public Health Service and others established the cause-and-effect relationship between fluoridation and the prevention of tooth decay.
    The CDC and the CDPHE have established targets for the fluoride concentration in drinking water.  In the past, the targets were based on the annual estimated consumption of drinking water (extrapolated from average air temperature data) over a five-year period.  Both agencies endorse the use of supplemental fluoride in drinking water. 
    The American Academy of Family Physicians has issued the following policy statement: “Fluoridation of public water supplies is a safe, economical, and effective measure to prevent dental caries” (tooth decay). 
    Since 1950, the American Dental Association (ADA), along with the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), has continuously and unreservedly endorsed the optimal fluoridation of community water supplies as a safe and effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay. 
    The ADA’s policy on fluoridation is based on its continuing evaluation of the scientific research on the safety and effectiveness of fluoride.  It continues to reaffirm its position of support for water fluoridation and has strongly urged that its benefits be extended to communities served by public water systems.
    Today, fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health over a lifetime. 
    Colorado’s Historic Relationship With Fluoride In Water
    The effect of fluoridation on the prevention of tooth decay was first identified in Colorado Springs in the early 1900s.  High levels of natural fluoride in the local water supply was found to cause discoloration of tooth enamel (called Colorado Brown Stain) but was also found to prevent cavities.  Due to subsequent studies that this discovery inspired, it was shown that fluoride added to drinking water at lower levels than found occurring naturally did not cause a discoloration of tooth enamel and was an excellent tool in preventing tooth decay.
    Fluoride was first added to Denver’s water in 1953, when Denver Water and the City of Denver’s Department of Health and Hospitals entered into an agreement to fluoridate the water. 
    To read more about Colorado’s historical relationship with Fluoride, please visit the National Institutes of Health “The Story of Fluoridation” page.
    For more specific information regarding fluoride in Denver Water’s drinking water, contact Maria Rose at Denver Water’s Water Quality Lab, at 303-628-5996.  The CDC also has information on its website,