FELLSMERE — Health officials scored a victory Thursday when the Fellsmere City Council unanimously reversed a decision that would have eliminated fluoride from the city’s water supply.
At the March 2 City Council meeting, City Manager Jason Nunemaker proposed cutting the $4,000 annual expense from the city budget, noting that the city promised to add fluoride to water for five years as part of a grant it received. Those five years have expired, he said.
But local health organizations protested the move, with Indian River County Health Department, Treasure Coast Community Health and Dr. Johnny Johnson, the president of the American Fluoridation Society, all in favor of fluoridation. In addition to Fellsmere, Vero Beach and Indian River County add fluoride to their water.
The council voted 5-0 on Thursday to keep its fluoridation practice.
“I am pleased for the residents of Fellsmere that they will continue to enjoy the benefits of community fluoridation,” said Miranda Hawker, administrator for the Indian River County Department of Health. “I’m happy we were able to provide the City Council and residents the information about the benefits of continued water fluoridation.”
Only one person spoke against community fluoridation during Thursday’s meeting, citing concerns with his right to choose whether the chemical was put into the drinking water.
“I’m against fluoride,” said Eric Boissat, of Fellsmere. “Continually putting that in the water is not good. Why would you want to put something toxic in your body? I use toothpaste that doesn’t have fluoride in it. It’s my right not to have it.”
But Tadd Richards, a dental hygienist for Treasure Coast Community Health, said he has seen a marked difference in children’s teeth since fluoridation began in 2012.
“What I was seeing was lots of teeth with large amounts of decay,” Richards said. “But what I have noticed over the past five years is that decay is smaller, and fluoride had decreased the decay rate for teeth in Fellsmere’s children.”
Vice Mayor Sara Savage said she didn’t want fluoride to become a crutch for people to rely on rather than good dental hygiene.
“Nothing replaces a toothbrush and toothpaste,” Savage said. “I have some reservations about fluoride, but I think we keep trying it and see how it goes.”
Councilman Fernando Herrera said it was clear that the community supports adding fluoride to the city’s water supply.
“We got the message,” Herrera said. “We want to do what’s best for the community.”