Lyerly residents may have the option in November of removing fluoride from their drinking water.
Currently there is a petition effort underway which if successful would include on the ballot in November a binding question on removing fluoride from the town’s drinking water. Twenty-two signatures are needed to authorize the referendum.
Several years ago the Georgia Legislature passed a law which allows local water suppliers to drop fluoride treatment if citizens vote to do so.
Lyerly Mayor Josh Wyatt brought up the possibility at a recent council meeting and council members agreed to start a petition.
Wyatt said the move would save the city money. He also questions the value of the fluoride, which has been included in the town’s drinking water for decades.
“The main reason is we could save money,” said Wyatt.
He said the town spends about $2,600 a year on the needed chemicals and an additional $1,200 on testing. Testing also requires a few hours of worker time each month.
The financial savings don’t seem to add up to much if one accepts the public health benefits many experts attribute to fluoride. But Wyatt isn’t sold on that argument.
“I’ve been drinking the water all my life and it hasn’t helped my oral health,” he said. “Personally I don’t believe those benefits and there are some studies which agree.”
However, most scientific opinion conflicts with Wyatt’s theory.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs the continued use of fluoridation as “a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay.”
The CDC lists water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
The National Academy of Sciences has been a backer of fluoridations since the program’s inception in the early 1950s. In a report from 2007 the NAS stated “fluoride in drinking water has two beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay and contributing to bone mineralization and bone matrix integrity.”
Wyatt believes that citizens can get enough fluoride from other sources, including toothpaste.
However, not everyone thinks that is a good idea.
“Water fluoridation is one of the great public health achievements of all time,” says Northwest Georgia Public Health spokesman Logan Boss. “Community water fluoridation is a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay and benefits everyone regardless of age, income, education, or socioeconomic status. Water fluoridation has been shown to reduce dental decay by 20-40 percent in fluoridated communities. It’s also the least expensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride to all residents of a community. Most oral diseases are preventable, and it would certainly be detrimental to a community’s oral health to eliminate the benefits of this proven preventive measure.”
Georgia is one of 13 states which require some level of fluoridation thought nationwide many local governments choose to add fluoride to their water. More than 96 percent of Georgians served by public water systems use fluoridated water.