FOX 8: Dental community battles to keep fluoride in North Carolina county’s water

Apr 18, 2024
Dr. Frank Courts of Union County advocates for community fluoridated water systems in Union County.

MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Top dental experts in the Carolinas are weighing in on the ongoing debate in Union County over fluoride. 

A new water treatment facility is set to open soon for Union County neighbors, with plans to serve about one-third of the county’s population. Officials at the Yadkin River Water Treatment facility may or may not add fluoride to the water, depending on how county commissioners vote on a community water proposal. 

City and county leaders across the country have been adding small amounts of the compound to water since 1945. Scientists have studied how much fluoride they can safely add and have lessened it within the last 10 years. 

Residents debated the merit of fluoride for hours during Monday’s Union County Board of Commissioners meeting. Some argued the additive can be harmful to pregnant women, others said it may lower children’s IQs; both have been refuted by healthcare professionals. The primary argument in opposition was that adding fluoride to public water is an infringement upon medical freedom. 

Dentists say it’s important to remember fluoride is a mineral, not a medication. 

“Just like calcium makes bones strong, fluoride makes teeth strong,” said Dr. Frank Counts. 

Courts is a Union County resident and part of the North Carolina Dental Society. He currently serves as chairperson for the NCDS Council on Prevention and Oral Health. 

Courts said his career has taken him to both urban and rural areas. He said the more rural areas without added fluoride typically have more dental patients with more painful problems. 

“The disease burden in that county compared to one that has community water fluoridation is just a dramatic difference, it’s huge,” he said. 

Courts said the mineral makes a big difference with a small percentage. Fluoride typically makes up 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. That’s the equivalent of about 77 cents out of $1 million. 

Queen City News Chief Legal Analyst Khalif Rhodes said there are two avenues residents can take if the commissioners don’t vote in the way they want – through the courts or through the voting booth. 

“I think the statutes would say that a jurisdiction has authority to govern public utilities and the way the water’s provided,” Rhodes said. “So, I’d have to always take it back to the ballot box. In a situation where you disagree with your public officials, if they are elected officials, you vote them out.” 

The proposed change would only impact water customers served by the new Yadkin River plant on New Salem Road. The majority of residents, about two-thirds, are in the Catawba River basin and retrieve water from a plant in Lancaster County, S.C.

Source: FOX 8 Article