Star Prairie residents need not worry about a change in their water. The Village of Star Prairie Board denied the installation of a fluoride treatment system for the village.
About 35 people – residents and public health officials – attended last Wednesday’s regular board meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.
Robbyn Kuester, the fluoridation program coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, began the discussion by explaining the fluoridation process to village residents in attendance and the benefits of adding a treatment system to the village’s water supply.
According to Kuester’s statistics, the Village of Star Prairie would need to add .7 parts per million of fluoride to its water to reach the optimal level of fluoride for dental health.
“We do not have any systems in Wisconsin that require we remove fluoride,” she said. “Here in Star Prairie we would be adding to your natural level.”
Fluoride works to prevent tooth decay by strengthening the enamel and fights off the harmful acids. It helps draw calcium back into the enamel to help prevent tooth decay, she said.
“From a public health standpoint, we try to input measures that are going to benefit the entire community,” she said. “Things that prevent health problems before they occur.”
Kuester said adding fluoride to the drinking water is the best way to prevent tooth decay because it doesn’t require anyone to change their daily routine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named community water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century, she said.
“It’s safe, there’s no access to care issues, and it really is a cost savings benefit,” she said. “The cost to fluoridate the water supply for one person for an entire lifetime is less than the cost of one dental filling. If we prevent one cavity in your lifetime, it’s paying for itself. Not many things we do give us a return on investment like that.”
Kuester cautioned that fluoride isn’t the answer to all tooth decay problems.
“No way am I coming here to tell you that if you fluoridate your water supply that all of your dental health issues are going to be fixed,” she said. “It’s just one piece to that puzzle.”
Some of the myths are that fluoridated water isn’t needed because toothpaste has fluoride, Kuester said. While it’s true that toothpaste does contain fluoride, that fluoride only protects teeth for about an hour after brushing, she said. Drinking fluoride in the water would give you more protection throughout the day.
Resident Dan Scheeringa didn’t agree. He said there are several products available, including several foods, that already contain fluoride and that it’s not needed in the water supply.
“Fluoridation does have its benefits as far as the reduction of dental disease, but handing it out to people just because someone says here’s some money and here’s some fluoride doesn’t make it right,” he said.
Jerome Ledo, a resident with a degree in clinical pathology, said he’s against the addition of fluoride because it’s listed as a toxic substance, a poison.
“It’s listed on any government website you want to look at. It’s the same government that wants you to put this in your body,” he said. “I studied the progress of disease on a microscopic level. The question isn’t the science, it comes down to one question – are you going to let them inject a poison into your drinking water system? That’s the only real question.”
Jennifer Hanson, a St. Croix County Public Health nurse, pointed out that many chemicals used today are considered poison if they’re not taken correctly.
“Doctors recommend that some people take aspirin daily,” she said. “Not very much, just a little 80 gram tablet, but if you went down and ate that whole bottle of aspirin, it would be toxic. It’s the same with fluoride. The right amount is what we’re talking about here.”
Hanson said fluoride is a mineral that’s naturally occurring that isn’t any more toxic than the iron we add to our bran flakes or the iodine added to salt.
“Nobody thinks about it,” she said. “Iodine, of course, for years has prevented goiters in people who used to get them 40 or 50 years ago. With the right level, it’s safe.”
Cindy Gibson, a resident and Star Prairie First Responder, said she believes everyone can have a different reaction to the fluoride.
“I’ve transported many people in the ambulance taking a lot of different medications that people can take safely. The reaction to medication, even fluoride, can be different for each and every person and each and every child. I’m not one to put something extra in my water. I think we have good water right now and I like the way it is,” she said.
Sue Lindberg, a St. Croix County Public Health nurse and member of the county’s “Healthier Together Coalition,” said dental, medical and mental health treatment and prevention was identified as one of the top health concerns in St. Croix County.
“A lot of people who can’t afford dental care are not here talking tonight,” she said. “But these are the people who cannot afford the trips to the dentist. Most of you probably can afford to go to the dentist.”
According to Lindberg, both Glenwood City and Woodville, which are smaller communities like Star Prairie, have had no complaints with their fluoridation systems and, in fact, dentists in both areas have said there has been a dramatic decrease in cavities since they started fluoridating.
Greg Gibson, village president, asked the room who was for and who was against the fluoridation and it was discovered that only one resident in attendance was in favor of the measure.
Wendy Kremer, retired public health officer, said it wasn’t fair to make a decision based on the opinion in the room because it wasn’t a true survey of all residents. She suggested reaching out to all residents to get an opinion on the topic.
Bruce Johnson, village trustee, said it’s a controversial topic and that there are arguments on both sides.
Debbie Lindemann, public health officer, encouraged the board to table the topic until they had a chance to do some more research.
Brody Larson, maintenance operator for the village, cautioned the village board by saying that if they put the decision off too long, the grant money for the system might not be available at a later date.
“That’s just something to think about,” he said.
The cost of the fluoridation treatment system was to be covered by a grant from Delta Dental; however, the village would still be responsible for the cost of the actual fluoride and paying Larson to maintain the system. Those costs are unknown.
In the end, the village board unanimously decided to deny the installation of the fluoride treatment system.