Elected officials of the City of Ste. Genevieve heard what local residents think about the benefits and disadvantages of fluoride last Thursday night, at a special meeting set up to help the board of aldermen decide whether to place the issue of fluoridation on the April ballot.
The two-hour session was opened by Mayor Dick Greminger. The format included opportunities for local dentists, who are urging the city to resume fluoridation of the municipal water supply, to make statements.
Opponents of fluoridation, some of whom think the chemical is hazardous to health and that its addition to the city water supply constitutes a violation of their rights, also had an opportunity to speak.
Jeff Crannick, who operates the city water plant, and representatives of a company that does work on the plant, were available to answer questions about what would be required to inject fluoride into the city water system in compliance with Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Dentists who addressed the meeting included Dr. James Brandt, DDS, and Dr. Ernst Taeger, an orthodontist who has a practice in Ste. Genevieve. Both indicated the local dental community has seen a significant increase in tooth decay since fluoridation of the water supply was suspended about 15 years ago. Taeger also offered current research data indicating that fluoridation is safe and beneficial, and that nationally-recognized health agencies and institutions recommend the practice.
Opponents of fluoridation argued that fluoride is harmful to health, saying that the chemical is considered to be a poison and that other sources of fluoride are available for those who wish to use it. One speaker urged the city to forego fluoridation, saying some people––including the speaker––are allergic to the chemical.
“I didn’t hear anything that was very new,” one person (who attended the public meeting but asked not to be identified) told the Herald. “The exception was the data provided by Dr. Taeger, which was pretty impressive and way more up to date than the statistics we heard the last time this came up.”
That last time was in the late 1990s, when then-Mayor Ralph Beckerman initiated efforts to resume fluoridation of municipal water.
Records indicate that the city began adding fluoride to the water supply about 25 years ago and continued to do so until the city’s old water plant was impacted by the 1993 flood. Although a new water plant was built after the flood, fluoridation was never resumed.
Beckerman’s campaign to resume fluoridation met with strong opposition from those who believe fluoride is a health hazard.
In April 2000 the city put the matter before voters in the form of a non-binding resolution. Opponents of adding fluoride to the water system won by just over 100 ballots in an election that brought out almost 1,250 voters.
One purpose of last Thursday’s public meeting was to help the board determine whether another public vote should be scheduled in April 2008.
A decision to do so must be made by the end of this month in order to get the measure on the election ballot.