PORT ANGELES — Although the Clallam County Board of Health has endorsed the use of fluoride in public drinking water systems county wide, the three county commissioners are not likely to consider enacting a law requiring water fluoridation any time soon — if ever, Commissioner Mike Chapman said Monday.
Chapman also serves on the Board of Health.
“I just don’t think that is something the [commissioners are] going to be looking at this year,” he said.
“I don’t expect that will happen. Nothing is scheduled. We just went over our work session items for the next month or two, and that issue on fluoridation did not come up.”
That doesn’t preclude candidates running for the Board of County Commissioners this fall from campaigning on the issue, he added.
After 16 years in office, Chapman has said he will not seek a fifth term as commissioner.
“It could be that with an open seat and whoever is running for office — they may bring it up this fall during the campaign,” he said.
During its monthly meeting Feb. 16, the Board of Health adopted a resolution on a 6-to-1 vote to endorse “community fluoridation as part of a comprehensive effort to improve oral health that includes: topical applications of fluoride in select populations; public health education on dental hygiene and the impact of application of fluoride in select populations; public health education on dental hygiene and the impact of tobacco and diet on oral health; access to preventive dental services; and access to restorative care.”
Chapman was the only board member to vote against the endorsement.
PA fluoride debate
Before the vote, Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, Board of Health chair, said the resolution is not intentionally directed at Port Angeles and its ongoing debate about fluoridating the public water supply.
“We think as a board that fluoridation is a good thing, and we are not pointing our fingers at Port Angeles,” she said.
“Obviously, it is on our radar screen because of what is happening in Port Angeles, but I am not suggesting that we as a board write the letter supporting Port Angeles per se, but what we think to be scientifically sound.”
The resolution “just lays out the facts, and I think it does [so] in a way that provides logic as to why we are taking this up as well as what we believe to be true,” Stehr-Green said.
Fluoridation is a “county wide” issue, she said. “We have ranked oral health as [an] issue that needs to be addressed.”
During the ongoing debate on fluoride, “those who are pro-fluoride need to respect those who are anti-fluoride and we have lost that as a community,” Chapman said before the vote.
“We have lost the ability to work together, and if there is a chance on this committee to bring [together] both sides, then that is what we need to do.”
The issue is no longer fluoride, but “representative democracy,” he said.
Chapman said he wants voters to decide whether they want fluoride in their water, with both proponents and opponents respecting the will of the majority.
Timing of resolution
Chapman said he questions whether the resolution should have been voted on during the Feb. 16 Board of Health meeting.
“The resolution shouldn’t have been considered that day,” he said. “It was added at the last minute without the proper public notice. To me, right now the resolution is somewhat in doubt as to if it was actually done lawfully.”
The item was added to the agenda at the request of County Commissioner Bill Peach, who also serves on the Board of Health.
The item was added in accordance with Board of Health bylaws, Trish Holden, Board of Health clerk, said Monday.
“If they as a group say yes we’d like to add the item then it gets added,” she said.
While not routine, “certainly we have done it a number of times,” she added.
That is because, with meetings held only once a month, timely decisions sometimes cannot be put off until the next meeting, Holden said.
“They will vote to approve the agenda as modified and then they will move on.”