Dr. Pat Snair told commissioners Thursday that she spends at least $1,200 a year filtering city-imposed fluoridation from her water and takes iodine pills to counteract its supposedly cancerous effects.
“Financially, I would rather have a cavity than cancer,” she said during a heated workshop Thursday.
And after two hours of passionate and researched arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of fluoridated water, it only convinced commissioners that they needed to hear more.
So, Dunedin’s water fluoridation process stays for now and officials are working to plan another public meeting about using the additive in drinking water.
About 40 people, many from Dunedin, but also several from Tarpon Springs, North Reddington and Clearwater, turned out to voice their opinion. Most opposed fluoridation. Only one person spoke in favor.
With no federal regulatory requirement to fluoridate the water supply, department heads proposed striking the process as a way to save money at a time when commissioners pushed staff to find creative cuts in their budget.
Paul Stanek, assistant utility director at the city’s water plant, said residents pay $16,800, about 50 cents a day, to keep their water fluoridated. Eliminating the fluoridation process would also save the city from replacing a $40,000 water storage tank.
City commissioners grilled Stanek on the numbers and science behind the process.
Stanek pointed out:
- Fluoride is naturally occurring (0.2 ppm) in Dunedin’s groundwater.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend an optimum drinking water concentration of 0.7 ppm. Dunedin’s water maintains that level with the use of added Hydrofluorosillic Acid, which is also used to produce aluminum.
- Levels are monitored daily.
- Federal recommendations were lowered to 0.7 ppm in January because better detection methods confirm that Americans have more access to fluoride than the pivotal 1960s research shows. Newer research (2006) also shows that levels should be monitored closely in children because they have lower body mass.
- A city commission decided to fluoridate Dunedin’s drinking water in 1989.
“Today I think we are in a very different place than we were 50 years ago,” Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said. “I ask myself, ‘What is my role?’ My role is to listen. I’m not a doctor. I don’t think it’s any of our places to question the use of fluoride in someone’s personal life. If they want to use fluoride, they can do that… It’s about the choice. I think, do I give the choice to the citizens or not? … I don’t’ think its my role to take choice away.”
The debate raged 30 minutes over the allotted time, and with no clear solution in sight, Mayor Dave Eggers tabled the controversial issue for further discussion, an evening meeting at a more spacious venue like Hale Senior Activity Center.
He echoed the commission’s general sentiment, “It is about choice” — a personal health choice, he explained, that perhaps government should stay out of, but also a choice that might be best left for voters.
Frustrated opponents interrupted Eggers.
Dunedin eco-activist Bree Cheatham shouted from her seat near the back of the room. She questioned the motive for another meeting when so many attended Thursday.
“Do you know how difficult it is to get people to come out to meetings?” she said.
Several other residents attempted to passionately interject when Eggers dropped the gavel.