Joey Martin is not optimistic that Martinsville City Council will remove fluoride from the city’s drinking water.
The issue could come up for a vote during tonight’s council meeting. Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge has indicated she will bring up the issue again when all five council members are present at a meeting. Karen Roberts, the council’s clerk, said she has not heard of a planned absence by any council member tonight.
Hodge could not be reached on Monday for comment on whether she will bring up the issue. During the Aug. 11 council meeting, she noted the absences of Councilman Mark Stroud at that meeting and Councilwoman Jennifer Bowles at the previous meeting. She indicated that she wants them to be present for any fluoridate-related vote.
Water fluoridation opponents have voiced to the council their opposition to the practice frequently in recent months.
“We’re not expecting to win tomorrow,” Martin said Monday, referring to himself and other opponents. “I’ve heard chatter and rumors” that the majority of council members will not support removing fluoride, he said, “but you never know.”
Mayor Danny Turner and Councilman Gene Teague have said that if a council member was to make a motion to remove fluoride from the water, they would not be supportive. Bowles has said that she was leaning toward not being in favor; she could not be reached Monday for comment on her current stance. Stroud has declined to state his position before a vote is taken.
Martin said that in recent weeks, he and at least 10 other fluoride opponents have actively distributed fliers and talked to groups, such as in churches, about what they consider potential dangers of fluoridated water.
Since the 1940s, communities nationwide have put fluoride, a derivate of the element fluorine, in their drinking water to help prevent tooth decay and other dental problems among their residents. Martinsville has fluoridated its water since the 1960s. The city spends about $15,000 annually to do so.
Studies have indicated that exposure to too much fluoride could result in dental and health problems such as white spots on teeth, thyroid conditions, hyperactivity and brain disorders.
Yet health officials generally agree that fluoride in drinking water is safe if it does not exceed a certain level. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a level of not more than 0.7 milligrams per liter. Martinsville’s water now is fluoridated at that level, officials have said.
Dr. Jody Hershey, director of the Henry-Martinsville Health Department, has voiced support for keeping fluoride in city water. He also could not be reached for comment on Monday.
“I’ve never really denied that fluoridation of water has some benefits” in preventing tooth decay, Martin said.
However, he referenced information, published on the Internet, that shows fluoride chemicals used in water are byproducts of the fertilizer industry and contain harmful substances, including arsenic.
Information on the website of the Fluoride Action Network, which opposes water fluoridation, shows that a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) water engineer, Thomas Reeves, stated in a letter that almost all of more than 40 chemicals – including forms of fluoride – are toxic to people in concentrated amounts, but when added to drinking water “in very small amounts, the fluoride chemicals dissociate virtually 100 percent into their various components (ions) and are very stable, safe and nontoxic.”
“The safety and effectiveness of community water fluoridation continues to be supported by scientific evidence produced by independent scientists and summarized by panels of experts,” the CDC’s website states. “The independent, non-governmental Community Preventive Services Task Force has noted that the research evidence does not demonstrate that community water fluoridation results in any unwanted health effects other than dental fluorosis” (white spots).
Martin estimated that he and other opponents of adding fluoride to water have discussed their concerns with at least 100 other people.
“Most people support removing it, I’d say 4-1,” Martin said. Most originally favored fluoridation, he said, but they “changed their minds quickly” upon hearing or seeing information that he presented to them.
With fluoride available from other sources, such as toothpaste, Martin said the “decision should be left up to the individual” as to whether they want to use fluoride. Adding fluoride to a public water supply from which everyone drinks is much like forcing people to take medicine, he maintains.
Martin said he and other fluoridation opponents will attend the council meeting at 7:30 tonight at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown. Nothing pertaining to drinking water or fluoride is on the official agenda.