Richmond reduces fluoride levels in drinking water

Published: Mar. 8, 2011 at 2:26 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2011 at 7:16 PM EST
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By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What's in your tap water? Less fluoride, if your drinking water comes from Richmond. As of March 1st, the city reduced fluoride levels as part of recommendations made in January by federal health and environmental officials.

It's in your tap, mouthwash and possibly your toothpaste. Fluoride. Richmond spends $280,000 a year on the substance that helps reduce tooth decay.

"When you drink it and you're a little kid, as they're developing, that systemic fluoride in your blood stream it gets picked up in the teeth and causes the teeth to harden," said Dr. Jeff Friend of The Patterson Avenue Center For Dental Arts.

Now, less fluoride is going in to the city's water treatment process. Richmond dropped the level from .9 to .7 milligrams per liter, the lowest end of the current optimal range.

"The least amount to get the job done I think is the key," said Dr. Friend.

Too much can cause problems says Dr. Friend. While your teeth would be solid, they'd look bad. Dr. Friend said a health condition called fluorosis could develop.

"If the fluoride level is high the teeth start to get what's called mottled, almost like a golf ball. They get pitted and dark, there's white spots and brown spots," said Dr. Friend.

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Health recommended the change citing increased access to more sources of fluoride than when water fluoridation was first introduced in the U.S.

It replaces the previous recommended range dating back nearly 50 years.

"The fluoride in the water has decreased the amount of decay we see today dramatically from what was seen back in the 60's and 70's and I think year after year it gets less and less," said Dr. Friend.

According to Richmond Public Utilities, reducing fluoride doesn't require a change in the water treatment process, it also doesn't cost more. The department will analyze cost savings.

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