LANCASTER — A controversial issue residents of Lancaster voted down 34 years ago will be decided again this November.
A proposal from a several City Council members to increase the fluoride in Lancaster’s water was brought for City Council vote in 2003. In January 2004, the proposal was voted down 5-4 by City Council.
Council members discussed fluoridating the city water over the next six months. On June 14, the Lancaster City Council voted 6-3 to let the decision of fluoridating the city’s water be put on the ballot as Issue 3 for voters to decide this November.
Councilman Dwight “Dyke” Andrews, D-At Large, said he had no stance on whether the city’s water should be fluoridated, he just wanted the voters to decide it, not council.
“I want the voters to decide it because it was a ballot issue at one time,” said Andrews. “I didn’t feel council has the right to impose it on the people.”
City Councilman Rob Morgan, R-At Large, felt the issue already should be decided.
“I was one of the council who helped sponsor the legislation,” Morgan said. “As far as I’m concerned, council should’ve made the decision.”
Morgan said he contacted companies like Kellogg in Battle Creek, Mich. Morgans said officials at the company, that makes breakfast cereals like Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes, told him they use fluoridated water in their some of their products. He also cited the fact the 91 percent of the state uses fluoridated water.
“If you’re against fluoride, you shouldn’t consume anything from anyplace else,” said Morgan.
Some professionals from the area have been stressing Lancaster adds fluoride to its water.
Dr. Anthony DiNapoli is a member of the group Healthy Smiles for Lancaster. Originally from Stuebenville, he has been a dentist in Lancaster for 13 years. He said during his time here, the lack of fluoride in the local water system makes it easy to tell who is a Lancaster native. He said there is an inordinate amount of tooth decay and cavities in local residents.
“Obviously this is something I believe pretty firmly in.” said DiNapoli. “Since I’ve been in town, it’s something I’ve seen the need for.”
DiNapoli also said fluoridated water will help lower the potential for cavities and tooth decay. He said children will benefit by having stronger teeth as they become adults, and fluoridation can help repair cavities if they occur in adult teeth.
“Basically, there’s a battle in all of our mouths from the tooth dissolving and repairing itself,” Dr. Dinapoli said. “Without the fluoride in our water, the balance is skewed towards cavities.”
Seventy-two-year-old Carolyn Spires couldn’t agree with DiNapoli less. She said she “most definitely” will vote no on Issue 3, mainly because her late grandmother who was a licensed chiropractor warned her about fluoridation. Spiers said her grandmother, Nelle Hummel, told her fluoride was “unfit for human consumption.”
“She said fluoride was no good,” said Spires of her grandmother. “She said if the dentists want children to have fluoride, they should give it to them by toothpaste.”
Spires doesn’t think citizens her age should have to drink water that contains added fluoride. Spires said her brother has liver problems, and fluoridated water may make him sick.
The Fairfield County water department provides fluoridated water to several villages surrounding Lancaster, such as Thurston and Carroll.
The Ohio Department of Health’s Chief of the Bureau of Oral Health Services, Dr. Mark Siegal said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has evaluated whether or not water fluoridated by the city is harmful. Siegal said he has heard many misconceptions about fluoridated water — from it being a communist plot to rumors in the early 1980s that fluoridated water caused AIDS.
“What has remained constant over the years is that (fluoridation) is safe and effective,” Siegal said.
Siegal also said allowing Lancaster to fluoridate the water would benefit everyone, especially low-income families and families without dental insurance.
Colleen Wulf with the state Department of Health agrees with Siegal.
Wulf cited a 1998 poll sponsored by the Ohio Family Health group which in its results showed the No. 1 unmet need in health care was dental care.
Wulf said fluoride already is naturally in water, and adding more to water will be safe and cost effective. She said the state provides grants for the start up costs of water fluoridation. Since Lancaster has never been a fluoridated community, city officials can apply for the grant and receive a 100 percent reimbursement, she said.
Grant Gikas, manager of the Lancaster Water Department, said until the public makes the decides on Issue 3, he won’t make any calculations on how much the added fluoride would cost residents.
“I think it’s jumping the gun,” Gikas said.
However, the state Department of Health has told city officials the cost to city residents will be 23 cents per person per year.
If voters approve the addition on fluoride to the city’s water, the water department will consider its fluoridating options, such as adding it to the city water either by liquid or powder form.
“We’ll be able to provide fluoride, but at this time we’re really not actively pursuing anything,” Gikas said. “It’s not a rush.”