Water plant worker Wally Babb, 45, was a purchaser for the utility when he first became uneasy several years ago about fluoride — a chemical recommended by the American Dental Association to help prevent tooth decay.
“There was a shortage (of fluoride), and I had to look for a new supplier,” he said. “When I started looking on the Internet, the more I found out and the more surprised I became.”
After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the utility to stop fluoridating, Mr. Babb said he refused to order the chemical.
In March, Dalton Utilities officials demoted him to the position of water plant operator and cut his pay from $28.34 an hour to $23.90 an hour, he said. A week before Thanksgiving, the utility fired him, stating in a memorandum:
“You have continued to be very verbal about your dissatisfaction with the fact that the company fluoridates the water. … You have also recently contacted the media to verbalize your complaints against the company and evidentially (sic) feel that this is a way to make the public aware of DU’s actions.”
Lori McDaniel, spokeswoman for Dalton Utilities, cited “privacy issues” in declining to comment on Mr. Babb’s termination. She stated in an e-mail, “We fluoridate our water because it is a requirement of our water permit, issued by the state of Georgia.”
The law allows water utility directors or owners to offer citizens a choice by referendum to opt out of fluoridating their water, but Dalton Utility officials have not held such a vote.
Although the chemical — a byproduct of fertilizer manufacture — continues to have widespread use and support as a water additive, the American Dental Association and the National Academy of Sciences both issued warnings in 2006 that baby formula shouldn’t be made with tap water to ensure infants don’t get too much fluoride.
Fluoride accumulates and can harm developing teeth, according to research reports. It also has been linked to kidney and thyroid disorders in adults. [also see FAN’s html version]