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Health Officials, Utility Plan to Scale Back Flouride Levels in Tap Water
Friday, April 15, 2011

Contact: Andy Fair, 704-432-0021
Karen Whichard, 704-336-4793

Based on guidance from local, state and federal health officials, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities plans to reduce the amount of fluoride added in tap water. The change will occur sometime over the next few weeks, continuing to safely reduce the incidence of dental cavities and promote dental health, while bringing local practices in line with a recent proposal from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS proposal recommends community water systems adjust fluoride content to the lowest end of the current optimal range established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Along with HHS proposal in January to adjust maximum fluoride content to 0.7 milligrams per liter, the EPA initiated its own review of the maximum fluoride levels currently allowed in drinking water. At this time, water regulators with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) haven’t formally changed rules related to tap water fluoridation, but the state agency recently authorized health and drinking water officials in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to decide together whether to lower local fluoride levels based on the DHHS proposal.
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the maximum amount of fluoride added to tap water will be reduced from about 1 milligram per liter (equal to 1 part per million, or the equivalent of 1 penny in $10,000) to about 0.7 milligrams per liter.
“This subtle change will continue to promote dental health in a safe and cost-effective manner while aligning current fluoride levels with the recent federal proposal,” explained Stephen Keener, M.D., Mecklenburg County medical director. “Local dental professionals and other public health partners are aware of this change and generally agree.”
The public has more access to cavity prevention than it did when fluoridation started in Charlotte more than 70 years ago, Keener said, but tap water fluoridation still remains one of the safest and most cost-effective means of preventing tooth decay in children.
“This adjustment will reduce the chance of fluoride over-exposure, a relatively rare situation that results in a condition known as fluorosis or discolored teeth,” Keener added. “This change is an excellent example of professionals and agencies working together to protect the health of our citizens and community in the most responsible, safe and efficient manner.”
The fluoride reduction is expected to reduce annual utility operating costs by about $100,000.  “Water customers won’t taste anything different,” said Barry Gullet, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities director. “Your water will continue to meet and exceed all established health and safety standards.”
Citizens with questions about tap water fluoridation are encouraged to visit or call 311.

If you have questions for Dr. Keener or Utilities Director Barry Gullet, they will both be available today, Friday April 15, 2011 at the Mecklenburg County Hal Marshall Annex, 618 North College St., Charlotte, 28202 from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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