The Alexandria City Council rejected by a 4-3 vote Monday a controversial resolution that would have required the fluoride to be turned on in the city’s water supply.
Councilman Dr. David Steele, a dentist who brought the resolution before the council following several months of discussion, said he was very disappointed in the position of the members who voted against it. He had argued that fluoride is beneficial to children from birth through age 16 and that the number of cavities he saw in young children in Alexandria had spiked.
“I had no idea that we would have a city council that would feel this is not a big health concern,” he said. “The people of this council have ideas that are not mine and not those of the people in the community.”
However, Alexandria City Council President Jeff Bryan said it was the will of the residents that he vote against the resolution.
“I had a lot of constituents who wanted me to vote against it. They had persuasive facts to back it up,” he said. “Believe me, we looked at a lot of pros and cons.”
Also voting against the resolution were council members Roger Cuneo, Pamuela Luck and Dan Stanley.
Water Superintendent Mark Caldwell made a unilateral decision about eight years ago to turn off the fluoride after he said he found articles that claimed there was a cancer risk for those who drank it.
Though some council members said they recall a decades-old resolution that required the fluoride to be turned on, it could not be found.
The council voted against the measure in spite of testimony by a local dentist and a letter from Dr. James R. Miller, state oral health director at the Indiana State Department of Health.
Dr. Michael Kluth, who has dental practices in Alexandria and Noblesville, said he can see a clear difference in the dental health of children from the two communities. He said in the more than 25 years he has been in practice, the number of Alexandria children with cavities has tripled.
“I think it’s going to be long-term very detrimental for the community,” he said.
Kluth and Steele each said the failure to fluoridate the water will be a bad reflection on the community, which to the outside world will look backwards. Kluth said that is especially bad in a community that has sought to raise its profile to attract millennials, who are of childbearing age.
Though some had suggested putting the fluoride matter to a public vote, Kluth said he was against it.
“It’s easier to make something fearful than to explain the science,” he said. “You trust the experts in the room like you do when you see your attorney or your accountant.”
State Department of Health fluoride specialist Jim Powers confirmed that Indiana has no laws requiring fluoride in the water, but it is the exception rather than the rule.
“If this were any of the surrounding states, we wouldn’t be having this discussion because they have laws requiring fluoride,” he said.
Powers said Alexandria ‘s water tests below recommended fluoride levels. He said he tested water at convenience stores on the north and south ends of the city.
However, Caldwell also presented tests results from a lab in Muncie that he said confirmed natural fluoride levels in Alexandria’s water have at times been much higher than clinical recommendations.
“What we have now is adequate, and some of it is detrimental,” he said. He claimed fluoride has been used as rat poison and pesticides and can be more toxic than arsenic or lead.
“Basically, EPA has classified it as an environmental waste product,” he said.