Flagler County will soon begin fluoridating its public water system.
The County Commission on Monday approved a resolution to add the mineral to the county’s tap water. Flagler becomes the 52nd county in Florida to choose fluoridation, according to Flagler County Public Health Director Robert Snyder.
Calling it a “very important public health initiative,” Snyder said nearly 17 million Florida residents are served by public water systems with fluoride in them. County officials say fluoridation at 0.07 parts per million reduces cavities by 25 percent over the span of a person’s lifetime. Snyder said Flagler’s fluoride levels are at 0.0089 parts per million.
“That is not the norm. It is about time for Flagler to do something about tooth decay for both children and adults,” he said.
Flagler County is the primary water provider to the Eagle Lakes and Plantation Bay subdivisions. The city of Palm Coast is Beverly Beach’s primary supplier, but Flagler serves as a subsequent provider. Snyder said he’s spoken to Palm Coast officials about considering fluoridation, but the city will likely not begin any formal discussions on the issue until after the November elections.
Flagler Administrator Craig Coffey said if Palm Coast opts to fluoridate Beverly Beach, the county won’t have to. However, if the city decides against it, the county will consider options for a fluoride injection system to the town’s water supply.
Volusia County does not fluoridate its water supply, but has naturally occurring levels of fluoride in its water.
The city of Port Orange has grappled with the controversy in recent years, leading to a heated debate during a workshop last November. Ormond Beach officials floated the idea of holding a special election to de-fluoridate in 2012. That never materialized. Holly Hill had a referendum on public fluoridation in 2011, with 71 percent choosing to keep the program.
Fluoridated water has been a contentious topic that’s stoked the suspicions of conspiracy theorists since American cities began tapping their public water systems with the mineral in the mid-1940s. While public health officials said fluoride is safe and helps protect against tooth decay, many speculated that the practice was part of a Communist threat or a government-sponsored plot to control the minds of the masses.
Seventy years later, the fluoridation debate continues to rear its head every few years, with opponents rising up to argue fluoride is a toxic chemical linked to everything from cancer and brain damage to bone disease. Collier County had to contend with such a fight earlier this year when a public outcry against fluoridation ginned up a petition to remove the mineral from the county’s water supply.
“Fluoride poisoning plays a role, in my opinion, in practically every disease that we see,” read a statement on one of the anti-fluoridation websites. “Why? Because fluoride is an enzyme inhibitor, and that means not one single cell in your body escapes its toxic effects.”
None of those critics were on hand during Monday night’s meeting in Flagler. Snyder was joined by representatives from the Florida Department of Health, the University of Florida’s and the American Fluoridation Society. They all argued that more than 3,000 scientific studies on the topic over the past 70 years have debunked those suspicions.
“Public policy should be based on the best available science,” University of Florida dental professor Scott Tomar said after Monday’s vote. “And really there is no controversy here.”
Also Monday, the Flagler board held a workshop during which they came to a consensus to establish a veterans treatment court in the county. The court would be similar to Flagler’s drug court, and serve as a jail diversion program tailored to arrested military veterans with substance abuse and mental health problems such as PTSD.