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Crumbling Infrastructure Causes Fluoride to Fade From Public Water Supplies

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The anti-fluoride movement is gaining steam in the U.S. And with celebrities like Ed Begley Jr. and Rob Schneider on board, how could it fail? 

But the debate over whether fluoridation benefits communities’ dental health or amounts to the forced medication of the masses isn’t why Oklahoma towns like Lawton, Purcell, and Fairview stopped adding the chemical to their water.

From The Oklahoman‘s Jaclyn Cosgrove:

Paul Southwick, Fairview city manager, said a few years ago, a tornado damaged the city’s water treatment equipment, leaving them without a way to fluoridate the water. At this point, it would be costly to replace the equipment. … Meanwhile in Lawton, officials chose to stop fluoridating the city’s water last year for cost and infrastructure reasons. …Dale Bunn, Purcell city manager and public works authority general manager, said they stopped fluoridating the water after an equipment failure that would be expensive to replace, probably costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Dr. Jana Winfree with State Department of Health told the paper fluoridating water actually saves money in the long run, with $38 dollars in savings for every dollar spent to add fluoride to the water. But Cosgrove reports that, right now “there are no state dollars available to allow communities to pay for the equipment or chemicals needed to fluoridate water.”

It’s been up to individual communities whether or not to fluoridate their water since the process became the norm more than six decades ago. The paper reports 62 percent of Oklahomans’ water supplies have fluoride added. That number was 70 percent five years ago.

As StateImpact has reported, ceasing fluoridation can have observable health impacts, with one Shawnee dentist reporting an increase in cavities in children since that city stopped adding fluoride to its water.


StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Logan Layden is a reporter and managing editor for StateImpact Oklahoma. Logan spent six years as a reporter with StateImpact from 2011 to 2017.
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