SANDPOINT — Residents here will no longer be able to gargle with city water to get fluoride on their teeth.
The city council voted 4-2 this week to quit adding fluoride to the municipal water system, which serves communities from Kootenai to Dover, including Sandpoint.
After being tabled for two years, the glass tipped against fluoridation at Wednesday’s council meeting.
More than a dozen people who spoke against fluoridation during the public forum period at the meeting opposed being medicated against their will.
They cited medical reports indicating the negative impact of fluoridation on young children, and cited statistics and reports in support of removing fluoride from public water systems.
Robin Campbell was among more than dozen people to encourage council members to abolish two ordinances that established rules for fluoridation in the city’s water supply.
“Since it’s so readily available, anyone who wants it, can get it,” Campbell said.
From free dental clinics to ubiquitous fluoride products, fluoride, the agent that has been added to water in most municipal water systems for more than 50 years, is no longer a necessary part of municipal water, Campbell said.
In fact, ingested fluoride is not the best way to prevent cavities, she said.
“The topical use of fluoride is most beneficial to teeth,” Campbell said.
Opponents, one at a time said adding fluoride to municipal water systems does more harm to water users than good, especially to young children. They blamed fluoride for bone deficiencies, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Jennifer Ekstrom of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeepers encouraged council members to stand up for removal of fluoride from city water.
The issue for her was one of personal choice.
Why should a city decide whether or not residents should be medicated, she asked.
“Let people make their own decisions about their medications,” she said.
Heather Seabring, one of the founders of the Sandpoint group Mothers and Fathers For Safe Water said she studied the pros and cons regarding fluoride’s impacts on young children. She was appalled that city government could force fluoridation on its citizens.
“It is time to stop medicating us against our will,” Seabring said.
Councilwoman Jamie Davis, who helped re-work an ordinance that was at the heart of the measure to repeal the former fluoridation laws, said the council’s vote embraced public consensus.
“I think the decision council made to repeal fluoride was a victory for the all Sandpoint water users,” Davis said.
Council members Carrie Logan and John Reuter voted against repealing the city’s fluoridation law.
“I am very saddened,” Logan said after the vote.
“It’s a sad day for the citizens of Sandpoint. I believe very strongly in the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation, and I believe that it’s the best way to accomplish coverage for the community.”
Logan said despite the arguments heard by council in favor of repealing the city’s fluoridation ordinances, the practice is advocated by groups from the Surgeon General to the Center for Disease Control.
She did not believe the statements heard by council were grounded in science.
“People use Google science,” she said.
Although opponents believed that fluoride was easily obtainable, she contended that many families still do not get it.
Logan cited Medicaid statistics showing that approximately 1,200 of 2,000 children enrolled in Medicaid in Bonner County between 2008 and 2009 received dental treatment.
In the five northern counties, 1,005 fluoride treatments were given to children in that timeframe, indicating that despite the availability of treatments, they are underused.
“I see this as a public health issue,” she said.
Sandpoint does not inject fluoride into its municipal water from July 1 to October 1 when the system switches from its Little Sand Creek water supply to the lake system.
That means citizens have not had fluoride in their coffee, water bottles or tap water-prepared orange juice for several weeks.
When the newly adopted anti-fluoridation ordinance is finalized, the trend of no added fluoride will continue indefinitely.
That is good news for many residents, but for others like Logan, it means many residents will not get the fluoride they need.
“My belief is, there is overwhelming valid science that substantiates the safety and efficacy, and I don’t believe opponents of fluoride have that foundation,” she said.