STUART — After weeks of appeals from residents, Martin County commissioners on Tuesday will discuss whether they want to revisit their decision three years ago to inject fluoride into the county’s drinking water.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in March 2003 to start fluoridating water. But because it took time to get grants and hire a contractor to build the injection system, the county doesn’t plan to start putting fluoride into the drinking water at its Jensen Beach and Tropical Farms water plants until early next year, Utilities Director John Polley said.
But Commissioner Lee Weberman said that at the urging of residents such as engineer Pat Arena, he will ask commissioners Tuesday whether they want to reconsider that decision. Weberman, who voted for fluoridation, said he thought the county had been putting it in the water since the 2003 decision.
“There’s been enough people who have expressed interest in this issue that we should at least talk about it and see if anything has changed,” Weberman said.
Arena has spoken against fluoridation at county commission meetings for more than a month.
He said any fluoride can cause cancer and pointed to a recent study by the National Research Council of the National Academies that suggests fluoride can weaken teeth and damage bones.
The American Dental Association and U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona support fluoridation, citing studies that show it can prevent tooth decay, according to their Web sites.
But Arena said studies suggesting fluoride strengthens teeth are really propaganda promoted by businesses that want to get rid of their stockpiles of fluoride, a byproduct in the manufacture of aluminum products and fertilizers.
“This has been a coverup since 1956,” Arena said. “The fact is it’s a cancer-causing agent and big bucks are keeping it moving. You’re talking about probably the biggest fraud our government has ever done to us.”
Anti-fluoride movements are common.
This year a Wellington councilwoman urged her village to reexamine its practice of fluoridation. Last month the city council of Del Rio, Texas, voted to stop fluoridating its water after 16 years. Last year in Arkansas, residents helped to defeat a bill that would have required nearly every water provider in the state to fluoridate.
Weberman said the county’s health care task force recommended fluoridation in 2002, and unless he sees some new information he still supports fluoridation. It cost $201,000, including grant money, to build the county’s fluoridation equipment.
Polley, the utilities director, said the level of fluoride that would be in the county’s water, about 0.7 milligrams per liter, follows state Health Department guidelines and is below maximum safe levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Stuart also plans to start fluoridating its water in January. Dave Peters, Stuart’s assistant director of public works, said the city’s water will be safe.
“It’s always been an emotional issue,” Peters said. “But most scientific agencies, if not all, support fluoridation, and that’s the city’s position.”