An effort aimed at stopping fluoridation of Gloucester’s water supply has sunk.
In a 2-6 vote, City Council members on Tuesday night shot down a proposed home rule petition that could have ended the addition of sodium fluoride to Gloucester’s water supply after going through the state Legislature.
“I’m glad (the petition) got to where it got last night. It was a struggle to get it there,” Councilor Jaime O’Hara said Wednesday.
O’Hara, who sponsored the petition, and Councilor Ken Hecht were the only councilors who voted in favor of the petition. Councilors Jen Holmgren, Paul Lundberg, Sean Nolan, Scott Memhard, Val Gilman and Steve LeBlanc voted against it, while Councilor Melissa Cox was absent for the vote.
Both the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Gloucester Health Department are responsible for the fluoridation of the city’s water supply. They also both determine if the water supply should be fluoridated.
According to O’Hara, the petition was an attempt to give Gloucester total control over the addition of fluoride to the city’s water.
O’Hara also said new research has come out about fluoride’s health effects since city voters decided to keep fluoride in Gloucester’s water through a 2015 referendum, and that fluoride could pose a risk to the environment, pregnant women and others.
“It’s a hazardous waste chemical added to the water and we’re medicating the people of Gloucester against their own will,” O’Hara said.
Dr. Rich Sagall, chairperson of the Gloucester Board of Health, said he does not know of “any well done” studies that show a negative effect on pregnant women from fluoridation.
Sagall also supports the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
“Both the board and the voters of Gloucester have come out in support of the city’s community water fluoridation,” Sagall said. “The board didn’t see the need to seek a home rule exemption and is pleased with the City Council’s decision.”
Holmgren said she voted against the petition Tuesday night because she did not want to “overturn the will of the people” after the voters supported fluoridation in the 2015 referendum.
Holmgren, a nurse, said fluoridating water helps prevent dental issues, especially with low-income families, and that she stands behind the Board of Health.
“I think there is a lot of misinformation about fluoridation out there, and I support the Health Department and the American Nurses Association’s decision (to support fluoridation),” Holmgren said. “If their research and stances change, I’d be more inclined to change mine.”
While any changes to the fluoridation of Gloucester’s water supply is off of the table for now, O’Hara said the issue could be raised again in the future.
“(More action on fluoridation) is always an option,” O’Hara said. “As more information on sodium fluoride becomes available to the public, it may peak their interest.”
In other matters, the council voted unanimously …