Water Terror | Urban Living
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Water Terror

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Sandy City residents are pretty pissed off that their water managers didn't notify them that the fluoride tank in the main pump room added way too much of the chemical to city water, turning some tap water yellow—not good! Fluoride, promoted to prevent tooth decay, can also accelerate water-pipe corrosion. So why are we putting it in our water in the first place?

Step back in time to Jan. 25, 1945, when Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first U.S. city to fluoridate its drinking water. The city did its due diligence and decided that adding fluoride (a toxic chemical in high doses) would protect the tooth enamel of children and adults. Well, right-wing opponents immediately claimed that adding the chemical to the water was a communist plot that would "bring America to its knees by poisoning the water supply." We were, at that time, deep into a Cold War against the Soviet Union and its allies. Rumors were flying that communists were infiltrating every inch of American life. Anyhow, as the years wore on, the fluoride scare faded away and the Cold War ended.

A few years ago, Wired magazine reported that "roughly 170 million Americans drink fluoridated water today, and statistics show that dental health in the U.S. has improved dramatically as a direct result of it." In the 1970s, Utah public health officials explored adding fluoride to water treatment facilities in Salt Lake County. Park City, Orem and Tooele had it in their water, but only 2.5 percent of the entire state drank the chemical in their daily water intake. A poll by the Public Utilities Division found 70 percent of 705 local residents favored fluoridation. The 1,100-member Utah Dental Association endorsed it, noting that Utah was one of the least-fluoridated states in the country. It got on the ballot and failed.

In 2003, voters in Davis and Salt Lake counties approved fluoride in our water supplies. The Centers for Disease Control had urged all states to put in the optimum levels of the chemical to prevent tooth decay, which the chair of the Utah County Health Board called an epidemic.

Now, it seems we might not want this chemical in our water anymore. Sandy citizens pointed out in public hearings that fluoride is in virtually every toothpaste and that we don't need additives in our drinking water, too. Methinks the power outage in Sandy that caused the massive fluoride surge and flooded water with copper and lead stripped from pipes will lead more people to talk about what might be lurking in their own tap water. The EPA website (epa.gov) has more info on safe drinking water.