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Public can comment on fluoride proposal

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Supporters and opponents of drinking water fluoridation will have an opportunity to sound off at a public meeting scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today at the African American Performing Arts Center at Expo New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority board is expected to vote April 23 on a measure that would require the utility to add fluoride to drinking water to a level recommended by a federal agency.

The water authority stopped adding supplemental fluoride to the water supply in 2011 based on a staff recommendation, said utility spokesman David Morris. The utility board heard a presentation about the move, but no vote was taken, he said.

“The decision to stop adding fluoride was based on the fact that sufficient fluoride occurs naturally in our water supply to provide some dental protective benefits without exceeding the 0.7 ppm level,” Morris said in a written statement.

The proposed measure would require the utility to raise drinking water fluoride levels to 0.7 parts per million. Fluoride levels today average 0.5 parts per million, though levels vary by region, he said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed that community water systems adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 parts per million.

Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in many drinking water supplies, including Albuquerque’s.

The measure, proposed by Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, has prompted a public debate about drinking water fluoridation.

Supporters say fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and has been shown to prevent and slow the progress of tooth decay. They say natural fluoride levels in Albuquerque’s drinking water are too low to provide health benefits and requires supplementation.

Opponents have said in letters to the Journal that exposure to fluoride, especially if ingested, can have harmful effects including dental fluorosis, which causes pitting and discoloration of the enamel, and they claim it can lower IQ levels in children.

Hart Stebbins said she proposed the measure after speaking with dentists who serve children from low-income families who often lack access to regular dental care and fluoridated products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

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