A split Greenville City Council voted Tuesday to resume adding fluoride into the local water supply for the first time in three years.
Two council members said they were against the measure, which was being recommended by a local dentist.
“I’ve just got some real concerns,” said James Evans, who asked most of the questions concerning the issue.
Council member Cedric Dean felt the decision should have been up to individual residents.
“I’m just not into putting fluoride into something, and forcing it onto somebody who doesn’t want it,” he said.
But Dr. Jeffrey Nelson, D.D.S. said there was no scientific evidence to indicate there was any harm to the public by the move, which could help lead to healthier teeth for the city’s population.
“I base my belief on research, peer-reviewed research,” Nelson said, adding there is 70 years of studies available, “that show nothing but positive benefits.”
Director of Public Works John Wright noted the City of Greenville ceased fluoridation of its drinking water in Sept. 2013, due to the effort causing too much wear and tear on equipment. Wright said the current fluoride concentration found naturally in the city’s raw water supply averages one-third to one-half of the fluoride level recommended by the EPA.
Wright said the addition of fluoride to the city’s treated drinking water would raise the natural concentration of about .3 parts per million (ppm) up to the recommended level of 0.7 ppm, with the initial estimated $50,000 in expenses covered in the city budget.
Wright said he had heard that extremely high concentrations of fluoride in the water supply, many times the amount to be added, might result in hurting the teeth of baby’s or making bones brittle.
“But we are way away from that,” Wright said.
Evans said he had received calls from several people, expressing reservations about the idea, and had received copies of articles warning of the dangers of adding fluoride.
Evans asked if the addition of fluoride was federally regulated or recommended.
“It is voluntary for municipalities to do it or not do it,” offered City Manager Massoud Ebrahim. “There is no directive, guideline or mandate.”
Nelson said the articles to which Evans were referring were not based on scientific research, explaining that adding the fluoride to the water supply would help strengthen the teeth of local residents, especially younger children, and would help prevent tooth decay.
“Anything that makes the teeth harder or resistant to that is a good thing,” he said. “With one vote tonight … you can prevent more decay than I ever will.”
The vote was 4-2, with Evans and Dean against.