The federal government reduced its recommendation for water fluoride levels Monday, fueling Wichita fluoride opponents’ stance on the issue.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now recommends 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. It previously had recommended a range of 0.7 milligrams to 1.2 milligrams.
“I think they’re moving in the right direction,” said Mark Gietzen, a water-fluoridation opponent in Wichita. “What this is an indication of is the proper amount is zero, and they’re trying to step it down.”
But the department’s recommendation emphasized the importance of fluoridated water for reducing tooth decay and improving oral health. It cited greater access to fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses as a primary reason it reduced the recommended range.
In 2012, Wichita voters rejected water fluoridation for the third time. The issue previously appeared on ballots in 1964 and 1978.
“This is a good thing that we have more access to fluoride, but it’s still unfortunate that Wichita doesn’t have enough access in its water,” said Larry Hund, a Wichita pediatrician. “Just because the Department of Health and Human Services is lowering the recommended dosage doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial for dental health for children.”
Wichita’s naturally occurring fluoridation level is 0.32 milligrams per liter of water, according to the city of Wichita 2014 Consumer Confidence Report.
In regard to future fluoride ballot measures, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said the lowered recommendation could solidify Wichita voters’ decision not to add more fluoride to its water.
“It may be more difficult in the future to try and spend those kinds of dollars when we are getting some benefit without spending any dollars,” he said.