With scientific and emotional appeals on both sides, the fluoride issue is proving to be one of the biggest topics of discussion in the city of Independence.
At Monday’s meeting of the Independence City Council, six speakers against fluoride brought science and emotion to the podium to shed more light on their side and predict a public defeat by voters.
One speaker, Bill Baggett, even inferred that city officials have already agreed behind closed doors to increase the level of fluoride in Independence water to one part per million.
Council members continue to say they haven’t made up their minds on the issue yet.
The pro-fluoride side attempted to pull out some heavy artillery of its own on Monday by sending forth two local dentists and the state health director for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“We need to wake up and realize this is a sham,” said citizen Clayton Hartig, the first speaker of the evening. “Topical, medical grade fluoride is different than the phosphate runoff that is being sold to cities to put in their city water.”
Hartig said a 1998 study showed increased aluminum levels in the brains of rats fed with one-part-per-million fluoride.
“Last time I was here (Sept. 16) I was led to believe there were no studies on this.”
Hartig read a list of countries that have lowered fluoride content in their water or eliminated it. Several countries in western Europe have done so since 1996.
Bob Parkey said he thought fluoride was a “win-win” situation until he began looking at the arguments of emotion versus science.
He said fluoride is more of an issue of discarding toxic waste.
“The health of children’s teeth is the emotional basis for fluoridation of water,” he said.
Fluoride, Parkey said, has adverse effects on menopausal women, pregnant women, elderly men, people with kidney problems, and so forth.
Jerry Banark said the issue of cost is also a misnomer.
“I’ve been told … $1.15 per person per year,” Banark said, “We all know that’s a crock …”
Dr. Jim Lowe, chief of dental services at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, said he has 5,000 patient visits per year and that’s why he takes a different side about fluoride.
Lowe said fluoride reduces tooth decay by 40 to 60 percent in children. Lowe used the argument that there is naturally occurring fluoride in most water supplies.
“It’s really about adjusting the fluoride levels,” Lowe said, backing up his research with studies from the 1940s and ’50s.
Dr. Jim Elias, an Independence dentist, said he came to the meeting with no agenda. He sat apart from the pro- and anti-fluoride groups.
Elias said his stance lies in helping people who cannot otherwise afford good dentistry.
“I’ve seen these kids,” Elias said, I’ve seen a lot of people that have decay … I believe fluoride makes a difference.”
Dr. Dean Perkins, health director for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said he supported fluoride because the U.S. Surgeon Generals have supported it since the 1950s.
“Forty-three of the 50 largest cities are fluoridated,” Perkins said, adding that fluoridation has gone down as one of the top 10 health achievements of the last century.
Council Member Jason White asked Perkins to supply the city with written information from the state regarding fluoride, including how fluoride affects different people and if it is associated with any diseases or chronic ailments, as some science suggests.
Bill Baggett said he does not care what the experts say.
Baggett told the council, “Your responsibility is to provide safe water,” and later said, “If they can’t get FDA approval then this thing is on hold.”
Laura Allison, a parent of young children, said she went into researching fluoride with an open mind and did not believe it was all it was cracked up to be.
“I do not like to be told what to think and what to do,” Allison said.
John Pennell, the last public speaker before council members spoke of their intentions to hold public hearings and reach some kind of council consensus, challenged the council to pass ordinances and a charter amendment to put Independence in line with federal safe drinking-water laws and the federal Food and Drug Act.
“The current approvals for the use of fluoride do not include eating it,” Pennell said, “In fact the direction for use is to spit it out. Do not swallow.”
The council intends to have a future public meeting on the issue, and is seeking recommendations from several sources, including the Public Utility Advisory Board, the Independence Health Department and other local and state authorities.