Fluoridation lives, but opponents are vowing a continued fight.
The City Council on Tuesday night voted to continue fluoridating Fort Collins water, with several members saying they trusted the opinions of local and national health experts.
“Who do you trust?” Mayor Pro Tem Bill Bertschy asked. “Who do you believe? I think we’ve made the right decision.”
Opponents of water fluoridation argued their freedom of choice was being trumped.
“I want to choose it,” said Elizabeth Nance, a mother of two. “It is not your job to choose for me.”
The council’s 4-3 vote is a victory for those who agree that water fluoridation poses little health risk and is a cost-effective way to prevent cavities. In voting, the council affirmed the consensus report of the Fluoride Technical Study Group, a group that in February concluded that fluoridation prevents cavities and poses little risk to the public.
The vote came after the testimony of more than 30 people — most of them asking that fluoride be removed.
It was just the first round in what opponents say now is a battle to end the city’s 36-year-old fluoride policy aimed at fighting cavities. Clean Water Advocates, a recently registered nonprofit group opposed to water fluoridation, is raising funds for a ballot initiative and has not ruled out filing a lawsuit to end fluoridation.
“It is time for people to speak,” said Pati Caputto, an organizer and certified nutritionist with the group.
Prior to the three-hour fluoride discussion at City Hall, 300 LaPorte Ave., a handful of picketers gathered outside carrying signs reading, “No Fluoride.”
In the meeting, several health officials urged the council to continue water fluoridation, including Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
She implored the council to “not give up on a low-cost and effective intervention” that reduces cavities.
Representatives from the county Board of Health and the Health District of Northern Larimer County said fluoridation is beneficial. Meanwhile, a representative from the city’s Water Board said fluoridation does not make water safer or cleaner.
For more than two years, the city has grappled with the contentious issue of whether to continue fluoridating Fort Collins Utilities water with liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid, or HFS.
Although the technical study group found water fluoridation safe, the group noted a risk for dental fluorosis, a nonthreatening condition that causes white specks to form on teeth. And the group was not able to rule out that fluoridated water could cause a small increase in cancers or bone fractures.
That, and other information discussed by the council — such as concerns that HFS is a byproduct of the fertilizer industry that contains trace amounts of arsenic — fueled opposing councilmembers’ resistance to the process.
Councilman Eric Hamrick called for a moratorium on fluoridation so more analysis could be conducted, but that failed.
“It’s not my role to mass-medicate Fort Collins,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Councilmembers David Roy and Marty Tharp joined Hamrick in voting against continued fluoridation.
Mayor Ray Martinez, who joined councilmembers Bertschy, Kurt Kastein and Karen Weitkunat in support of fluoridation, said he was convinced by health organizations, which are overwhelmingly in support of fluoridation.
“There are no autopsy reports of people dying of fluoride,” he said.
The council split Tuesday along the same lines that emerged at a May 20 study session.
One anti-fluoride activist said it appeared nothing would have swayed the council.
“They had their minds made up before they came,” said Linda Sherrod, a member of Clean Water Advocates.