HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County residents will be given an option on the General Primary ballot, May 19, regarding the addition of fluoride to the City of Hiawassee water supply. A petition opposing the addition of fluoride was circulated in the community in 2019, garnering enough signatures to place the decision on the ballot for both Hiawassee and Towns County consumers. According to Hiawassee City Hall, 35 citizens signed the circulated petition, enough to advance the referendum.
The City of Hiawassee received notice in early 2019 from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that the mineral has not been an additive in the water supply for decades.
“During the routine inspection, it was discovered that the Hiawassee Water System did not add fluoride as a treatment process,” EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey wrote in an email obtained by FYN. “According to the current ORC, Mr. Randall Thomas, Hiawassee WTP has not treated the water with fluoride in over 20 years. All potable water sources must be fluoridated, according to the Rules for Safe Drinking Water 391-3-5-.16 Fluoridation. Amended. In certain cases, some water systems had received a waiver from the state or there was a vote within the board of the water system as to not add fluoride to the drinking water.”
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded, informing EPD that a vote to reject local fluoridation had taken place 36 years prior. Ordiales included a copy of city council minutes from 1983 as evidence.
FYN reported public opposition to fluoridation after Fluoride Action Network published FYN’s initial report on the city’s intent. According to its mission statement, “Fluoride Action Network seeks to broaden awareness among citizens, scientists, and policymakers on the toxicity of fluoride compounds. FAN provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and remains vigilant in monitoring government agency actions that impact the public’s exposure to fluoride.”
Fluoride is the ionic form of fluorine, the thirteenth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is released into the environment naturally in both water and air. Its concentration in water is variable. Water is the major dietary source of fluoride. The variability in water content explains much of the variability in total fluoride intake. Other important sources of fluoride are tea, seafood that contains edible bones or shells, medicinal supplements, and fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride compounds are also produced by some industrial processes that use the mineral apatite, a mixture of calcium phosphate compounds. Dietary fluoride is absorbed rapidly in the stomach and small intestine. One-quarter to one-third of the absorbed fluoride is taken up into calcified tissues, whereas the rest is lost in the urine. In bone and teeth, fluoride can displace hydroxyl ions from hydroxyapatite to produce fluorapatite or fluorohydroxyapatite. About 99% of total body fluoride is contained in bones and teeth, and the amount steadily increases during life. The recommended intake for fluoride is expressed as an adequate intake rather than recommended dietary allowance, because of the limited data available to determine the population needs.
The adequate intake for fluoride is 0.7 mg daily for toddlers, rising to 3 mg daily for adult women and 4 mg daily for adult men. It remains unclear whether fluoride is truly essential, although fluoride may have some beneficial effects. Once taken up into bone, fluoride appears to increase osteoblast activity and bone density, especially in the lumbar spine. Fluoride has been suggested as a therapy for osteoporosis since the 1960s, but despite producing denser bone, fracture risk is not reduced. Indeed, there is some evidence that nonvertebral fractures may be increased. The only known association with low fluoride intake is the risk of dental caries, acting through both pre-eruptive and post-eruptive mechanisms. The American Dental Association strongly supports fluoridation of community drinking water supplies; however, strong contradictory opinions also are held.
Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service recommended that public water supplies contain between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L) of drinking water to help prevent tooth decay.
This recommendation was updated in 2015 to a fluoride level of 0.7 mg/L, The change was made in part to account for the fact that people now get more fluoride from other sources than in the past. Natural drinking water sources in the US have an average fluoride level of about 0.2 mg/L, although in some areas it can be much higher.