Fluoride in Durham's Drinking Water

In 1957, Durham’s customers voted to support the addition of fluoride to the city’s treated water in order to promote dental health. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), fluoridation is a safe and effective means of preventing tooth decay. It has been cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Studies show that fluoridation can prevent between 15%-40% of decay. The ADA cites over 60 years of studies supporting this conclusion. The American Medical Association (AMA) and The America Academy of Pediatrics continue to support fluoridation of drinking water.

Amount of Added Fluoride

The amount of fluoride added is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Public Water Supply Section (DENR/PWSS). The EPA, along with the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, now says dental health can be promoted and maintained with slightly lower levels of fluoride. This meets the stated goal for fluoride treatment of adding enough to prevent tooth decay while avoiding unwanted health effects from too much fluoride.

Based on EPA’s recommendation, NC regulators have allowed water systems to decrease their fluoride target levels from 1.0 milligrams per liter (mg/l) to 0.7 mg/l. The city changed dosage levels for fluoride immediately upon receiving approval in February of 2011 and is consistently meeting the desired target.

Possible Negative Effects

Recent news reports have suggested that fluoride addition is unnecessary and has adverse health effects. Experts with the NC Division of Public Health, Oral Health Section continue to strongly support water fluoridation. They consider it an effective, safe, inexpensive and equitable method of preventing tooth decay in children and adults.

Studies conducted in other countries, most notably China, reflect dosages significantly higher than those allowed by water providers in the United States. We encourage customers to carefully review all the information available and consult with their dental providers or review information provided by the American Dental Association.