Martinsville will continue adding fluoride to its drinking water — its practice for many years.
After hearing from a local dentist and studying information about fluoride in public water supplies, Martinsville City Council on Tuesday took no action on a city resident’s recent request that the city stop fluoridating its water.
In some circles, there has been controversy over whether fluoride can cause health problems and whether having it in drinking water constitutes localities forcing residents to take medicine.
Fluoride is a derivative of the element fluorine.
The American Dental Association recommends that public water supplies be fluoridated. A fact sheet published by the organization shows that fluoride is safe and helps prevent tooth decay and dental diseases.
For more than 65 years, “the best available scientific evidence consistently indicates” that fluoride in water is safe, the fact sheet states, even though some researchers have presented findings to the contrary.
Fluoridated drinking water is “the single, most effective public health measure in preventing tooth decay,” said Dr. Mark Crabtree, a former Martinsville mayor who has a dental practice on Starling Avenue.
Over the years, more studies have concluded that it is effective than that it is not, said Crabtree, co-founder of the Piedmont Virginia Dental Health Foundation.
About 75 percent of the nation’s public water supplies are fluoridated, he said.
It is “pretty much a standard practice,” said City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
Fluoridating the city’s water costs Martinsville about $15,000 a year, a document shows.
Based on information she has seen, Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge said the city is spending about five times as much on fluoridating water than the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. spends to promote small businesses. She questioned whether that is the right message, so to speak, for the community to communicate.
However, Hodge said she was not questioning the benefits of fluoridating water.