SYLACAUGA – A decision on whether to continue adding fluoride to the city’s water probably won’t be made for at least a couple of weeks.
City Council members are scheduled to meet tonight, but they indicated Monday the fluoride decision will likely be made when they gather again May 21.
The council will use that time to determine the pros and cons of the issue, many of which were presented at a public forum Monday.
In all, the council heard arguments from 11 residents from throughout Sylacauga and Anniston, as well as Dr. Robert Meador, state dental director for the Alabama Department of Public Health.
In his argument for fluoridation of water systems, Meador mainly discussed its effectiveness as an oral cleaning agent and the negative effects on children who do not drink fluoridated water.
“I can look into children’s mouths, and they’re just eaten up with decay,” Meador said. “It’s just so sad to see children in that sort of situation.”
Meador also noted numerous national health organizations that supported water fluoridation as well, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two other dentists lauded its value in keeping teeth clean as well.
However, the majority of the audience members who actually spoke, – nine out of 12 – said they did not support fluoridation of water.
Reasons ranged from fluoride’s apparent ineffectiveness as a teeth-cleaning agent, neurological disorders attributed to its use and the element’s alleged caustic and toxic nature, especially in high doses.
One of the main opponents of fluoridation at the meeting was Christy Emfinger, a registered nurse based out of Fayetteville who first brought up the issue in a council work session in April.
Emfinger touched on many similar arguments against water fluoridation, adding what she perceived as an overreaching of government authority to prescribe fluoride on a mass basis.
“The state is trying to sway the council to prescribe medical treatment,”Emfinger said. “That’s wrong. It’s wrong. No doctor in the world, in the state of Alabama or in the United States is allowed to prescribe one thing for everybody.”
It was a sentiment shared by Councilman Joe Hogan, who publicly expressed his opposition to fluoridation.
While Hogan did not openly declare fluoride ineffective or dangerous as a whole, he said individuals should be left to decide whether they want to fluoridate their own water.
As far as the arguments made against fluoride concerning its possible adverse health effects, Meador took to the podium twice after his initial speech to correct what he said were misinformed and unsubstantiated claims from fluoride opponents.
In all, he felt he made a strong case to continue fluoridating water and correct what he said were misgivings people had about its use.
“Unfortunately, the anti-fluoride people get their information from the Internet, not accredited research from reputable institutions,” Meador said. “They take that out of context, they twist some things around. But most of them do a wonderful job presenting to a city council: very articulate in the way they present this misinformation.”
Emfinger and other members in attendance also took the opportunity to rebuff Meador’s claims as well.
When asked what he made of the public forum, Council President Rocky Lucas said he and the council will have a lot to consider in the coming weeks.
“There were some very valid points made on both sides,” Lucas said. “And it’s just going to boil down to a decision … the council is going to have to make on behalf of the citizens, in the best interest of the citizens.”