Decades of research convinced Dunedin officials to keep the city’s water fluoridated Tuesday (Nov. 29).
Discussion during the three-hour special meeting at City Hall centered on a person’s right to choose and the government’s obligation to ensure public health.
About 50 residents attended; many eco-activists, practicing and retired dentists and pediatricians spoke passionately on both sides of the issue, some calling it a “curse” or “rat poison.” For others, it was a matter of choice.
“For people who want it, there’s options; they can go and buy it,” said Doug Bruce of Dunedin. “For me, I can’t take it out.”
Kim Mohr, who runs Serendipity Cafe, pleaded: “Please don’t make me pay for it.”
Longtime pediatric dentist Johnny Johnson, who has a practice in Palm Harbor that sees 400 Dunedin residents, disagreed.
“The people that are going to lose the most are the people that don’t go to the dentist very often,” he said.
City officials, who said they conducted their own research, were divided and passionate in their deliberations. They ultimately voted 3-2.
“I’m not a scientist,” Commissioner Julie Scales said. “In matters of science, I’ll look to professionals … In my reading, when organizations and institutions support fluoridation, it’s a way to address a public health issue. Dentists [are speaking in favor] — they could have people come in and have people pay them more money if they wanted. They’re not acting in their own interests.”
Vice Mayor Ron Barnette, who was the first official to address the issue, passionately outlined his case for keeping fluoridation.
“I’m probably not going to win a lot of friends,” he said. Then added that based on decades of sound scientific research, he found no clear objections to safety, effectiveness, affordability (“The lifetime cost is less than the cost of one dental restoration,” he said) and public policy.
“We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric,” he said.
One woman called him “insulting” and left the room.
City staff recommended that officials discontinue the process during early budget talks because it would save the city roughly $50,000. Officials initially hesitated, however, upsetting a vocal contingent of anti-fluoride proponents.
“As it relates to government,” Commissioner David Carson said, “it costs 48 cents per resident per year. This is a joke.”
“For me it just boils down to choice,” Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said. “I want the choice. I want to be able to choose what I do, what I drink, what I eat.”
The mayor said he’d read enough research against fluoridation to raise enough doubt in his mind to vote against it. He then challenged people to continue reading about fluoride and create ways people can make their own choice.
“Lets be creative about how to deliver this product to those that do want it,” Dave Eggers said. “That’s not easy; the easy way to do it, is to do it the way we do it right now.”
The city’s decision comes on the heels of Pinellas County’s recent decision to discontinue its fluoridation process effective Dec. 31.
Barnette, Scales and Carson voted in favor of keeping city water fluoridated. Bujalski and Eggers voted against it.