History of Fluoride in Drinking Water
Fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in many ground waters. In the 1920s and 1930s a link was made between fluoride concentrations in drinking water and a reduction in tooth decay. In 1945, municipalities began adding fluoride to drinking water to fight tooth decay. Follow up studies in these communities over the following 13-15 years showed a 50-70% reduction in cavities.
Because of the potential public health benefits to residents, the City of Austin held a public referendum on fluoridation in the early 1970s. The referendum passed with the support of the community, and Austin Water began adding fluoride to the water on February 2, 1973.
As a result, Austin Water has nearly thirty years of operational experience with fluoride. Austin Water's annual quality report lists the amount of fluoride in Austin's drinking water.
Furthermore, the beneficial aspects of fluoride are widely recognized. Impartial groups that have endorsed fluoridation include the American Dental Association, the Texas Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also supports the practice of fluoridation and has developed detailed engineering and administrative recommendations regarding it. In fact, the CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops standards for and regulates the concentration of fluoride in drinking water. Austin Water constantly monitors the addition of fluoride at our water treatment plants and routinely measures the concentration of fluoride in the finished water to assure that it is well within the regulatory limits established by the EPA.
Fluoride and Infants
Water fluoridated at a level optimal for oral health (as is used in Austin) poses no known health risks for infants. However, some children may develop enamel fluorosis, a cosmetic condition where faint white markings or streaks may appear on the teeth. Fluorosis can affect both baby teeth and permanent teeth while they’re forming under the gums.
If you’re concerned about fluorosis, you can minimize your baby’s exposure to fluoride in several ways. Breast feeding is the best source of nutrition for infants. If breast feeding is not possible, you can minimize fluoride exposure by using ready-to-feed formula. You can also alternate tap water and non-fluoridated water for formula preparation, or mix powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with low-fluoride water most or all of the time. If you use only non-fluoridated water, such as purified, deionized or distilled water to prepare your baby’s formula your doctor may recommend fluoride supplements beginning at six months.