OUR OPINION: A good decision.
During its last meeting, the Inverness City Council was presented with a staff recommendation to stop adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water, but after hearing from dental professionals, decided against the proposal.
The most important benefit of adding fluoride to water is that it helps promote dental health and reduce tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since fluoridation of water supplies first started in 1945, nearly 75 percent of the United States served by community water systems fluoridate water, and there has been a concomitant dramatic decline in tooth decay. This led the CDC to name fluoridation of drinking water one of the Ten Great Public Heath Interventions of the 20th Century.
In its recommendation, city staff said 99 percent of the fluoride added to the water goes down the drain and into the environment. The staff report also said “most consume water from a bottled supply,” without providing any basis for the statement or statistics on water use in the city, and said fluoridation costs $15,000 annually. Also, the staff recommendation said that since fluoride is present in dental hygiene products, beverages and even mouthwash, there is little benefit to continued fluoridation.
But, after twice mentioning cost, staff said cost savings was not the reason for the proposal. Instead, they said, the proposal is about water quality and protection of workers who handle the fluoride — and as one of the benefits, staff said removing fluoride would improve taste. This is somewhat debatable since most sources say fluoride does not affect taste, though the city adds chlorine, which does affect taste, and other chemicals to reduce corrosion in the city water system.
Further, the statement that 99 percent of the fluoride goes down the drain or into the environment seems a little odd, since most of the water used in a home goes down the drain unless it is used for irrigation, and in both instances both the water and any chemicals added to it goes back into the environment.
But the appropriate information that the council asked is whether there is a benefit to fluoridation. That was answered by dentists who were concerned enough with the proposal to come to the meeting and testify. They pointed out the benefit fluoridation had to the public, particularly to children from low-income families who may not otherwise have access to dental fluorine.
Thanks to the willingness of dental professionals to take the time to come and speak against the proposal, and to the willingness of council members to listen to the facts before making a decision, Inverness came to the right decision to reject the staff proposal and continue fluoridating its water.