City officials in Texarkana, Ark., heard from more than 25 members of the public during a two-hour public hearing on fluoridation issues Monday night at City Hall.
Aside from the issue at hand, not everyone was pleased with the three-minute time limit set for each speaker.
Succeeding a technical report by Texarkana Water Utility Director Bill King, and 10 -minute reports from both Dr. Lynn Mouden, who spoke on behalf of the proponents of fluoridation, and Dr. David Kennedy, who spoke on behalf of the opponents, the board heard alternating comments from various members of the community.
One of those people was former Environmental Protection Agency scientist Dr. Robert Carton, who spoke in opposition to community fluoridation.
“Dr. Mouden mentioned this was a democratic process, but where is the discussion? The debate? They (the board) didn’t even allow any time for questions and answers from the audience,” said Carton, who traveled from Maryland to speak at the hearing.
When Carton’s time to speak expired, Ward 3 Director Londell Williams asked that the board allow him more time.
“The man traveled 2,500 miles just to be here. The least we can do is let him speak for another five minutes,” Williams said.
Williams’ request sparked comments from the audience as individuals stepped forward to volunteer their three minutes to Carton.
However, Wayne Denson, who was present at Monday’s hearing in support of his wife Alyson Denson, a pediatrician who spoke in favor of fluoridation, insisted that the board adhere to the format that was agreed upon prior to the hearing.
After brief discussion among board members, Assistant Mayor Horace Shipp decided that the three-minute speaking rule would be enforced.
In addition to the pros and cons debated at the hearing, some in attendance wanted to know why city officials were reconsidering fluoridation after the issue had been rejected in 1986.
“Sixty percent of the people told you they didn’t want fluoridation,” said Texarkana, Ark., resident Augie Harder. “Why would somebody go back and resurrect a carcass that’s been laid to rest?”
The individual responsible for the resurrection is Ward 3 Texarkana, Texas, City Council member Christie Adams, who was also present at Monday’s hearing.
“I assure you I have not been contacted by anyone to do this for political reasons,” said Adams, as she listed a lengthy list of organizations that supported fluoridated water.
Adams also presented the board with a petition signed by 162 Texas-side citizens in support of the effort.
Adams first raised the issue of fluoridation in June during a Texarkana, Texas, City Council meeting, which prompted research by Texas-side City Manager George Shackelford and TWU Director Bill King.
Now that the research has been completed and submitted to officials in both cities, both city governments are required to conduct public hearings on the topic.
The Texas-side City Council will conduct their public hearing at their Aug. 12 meeting.
Fluoridating the Twin Cities’ water supply would not only affect Texarkana residents, but also those in Wake Village, Nash, Annona, DeKalb, New Boston, Avery, Oak Grove, Mandeville, the Central Bowie Water Supply and the Union Water Supply.
King said the chemical would also be introduced at Millwood and New Boston treatment plants and there would be a “slight pollution factor” in the first few days of fluoridation.
Libby Farmer, a resident of Wake Village, was affronted.
“So many people who shouldn’t have it are going to have it no matter what, and we don’t even get a chance to say anything about it,” she said.
No city official from either the Texas nor Arkansas side has yet to announce any intention of allowing citizens of the aforementioned cities a chance to voice their concerns, nor have they decided whether or not the issue will even be put to public vote.
Meanwhile, professionals in the community still argue.
“It’s senseless. There’s too much pain and suffering when something as simple as water fluoridation would ease (tooth decay and loss),” said Texarkana, Ark., dentist Kevin Seddens. “We are dentists by trade, that’s how we make our living. This takes money out of our pockets but we’re trying to make a difference in the community.”
Eddie Brown, another dentist in favor of fluoridation, agreed.
“One of the causes of the need for braces is the early loss of primary teeth,” he said. “Fluoridation delays those losses and also prevents the need for braces. People that need fluoridated water are the low income and uneducated. This is a way we can reach people regardless of race and income in a safe manner.”
Environmentalist Oran Caudle does not believe fluoridation is safe.
“A growing number of dentists are coming out against fluoridation. This is an object that is going by the wayside just like Fen-Phen,” said Caudle, adding that there are 14 Nobel prize-winning scientists against fluoridation. “Fluoridation is bad for the weakest members of our society. In Vermont, people are spending money to get fluoride out of their water, and here we are spending money to get it in.”
Another opponent, Alfred McGill, agreed. McGill brought a bottle of sodium fluoride, which he said is “poisonous to every cell of the body.” After reading the warning label on the bottle of the “highly toxic” powder used to kill roaches, he said, “I don’t want that in my water, and I hope you folks don’t put it there.”
Harder summed up many of the opponents’ feelings by pointing out that fluoridated water would benefit only a small segment of the population since a majority of the city’s water supply went to such activities like gardening, washing cars and fighting fires.
“If parents want their kids drinking fluoridated water, they should buy bottled fluoridated water, instead of the city subjecting everyone to it,” he said. “I think adding fluoride to water to cure children’s’ cavities is like using a guillotine to cure dandruff.”