Pollsters working for the Washington State Dental Association are claiming to represent Bellingham’s Public Works Department – but an association spokesman said he doesn’t know why.
The survey aims to gauge people’s attitudes about adding fluoride to city water, which is not fluoridated now.
“An ongoing major part of our public-policy efforts is to implement fluoridation where it’s possible to do that,” said David Hemion, assistant executive director of the dental association. “We’re looking at Bellingham right now just to get a gauge on what the public feels about fluoridation.”
The survey also includes questions on how people feel about the state of the world, certain city officials and departments, and others, according to Hemion and people who have been contacted.
Hemion declined to release a copy of the survey’s questions. He said the survey company was checking to see why pollsters were claiming to represent the city.
Bellingham Public Works Director Dick McKinley said he has heard complaints from several people who were called.
“They are not doing a survey on behalf of Public Works in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I consider it fraudulent. I consider it gross.”
If the poll shows support, the association would probably propose having the city fluoridate the water, Hemion said. McKinley said the association has hired a firm to study how much it would cost to fluoridate city water.
Janet Davis, community health manager with the Whatcom County Health Department, said county officials reviewed survey questions in advance, but have nothing to do with it. Davis noted that a recent county survey of Bellingham third-graders showed a higher rate of tooth decay than the rest of the state.
“It’s a public health issue, definitely, because we’ve got problems with oral health and decay,” she said.