Following the General Assembly’s rejection of a bill that would have asked Timberville residents whether the town should continue adding fluoride to its water, a local group is taking a different tack in the battle over fluoridation.
Instead of trying to stop fluoridation of the town’s water outright, those opposed to it are working on an initiative that could smooth the way toward an eventual ban on fluoride.
Several people have been going door-to-door asking residents to sign a “declaration” asking Town Council to adopt a law prohibiting legislation mandating fluoridation.
The document’s purpose is to help council assess the will of the people, according to the declaration.
The group plans to present the document at Thursday’s regular Town Council meeting. Council meets at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 392 S. Main St.
“We would like for the citizens to be educated, and we’d like to have some answers as to what’s going into the water,” Paula Bowman said. “We want the Town Council to vote our wishes.”
Town Looks To GA
Timberville decided to re-evaluate its practice of fluoridating its drinking water last year, sparking months of debate from people on both sides of the issue. Fluoride has been added to municipal water supplies for decades as a way to improve oral health.
Supporters say it’s a safe and effective practice that’s been endorsed by health experts and federal health agencies. Opponents, though, contend it can be dangerous and say the costs outweigh the possible benefits.
Town Council voted in October to put the question to a vote by nonbinding referendum this fall.
However, Town Attorney Mark Callahan informed council the following month that state law does not allow the issue to be voted on by referendum.
Councilwoman Sharon Jones then approached Del. Matt Lohr, R-Broadway, and asked him to present legislation that would allow residents to vote on the matter.
Lohr’s bill was defeated in the House of Delegates, 50-43. Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, abstained. Dels. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock and Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, joined Lohr supporting the measure.
Joan Hulvey, a Broadway resident who owns a business in Timberville, has spoken out against fluoridation at previous Town Council meetings.
Hulvey organized Virginians for Safe Drinking Water, the group that’s circulating the declaration.
Representatives of the group began circulating the document on Thursday, and as of Sunday, at least 200 people had signed it, according to interviews with group members.
The declaration lists several reasons to oppose fluoridation, including “[protection of] infants and children” and the prevention of what fluoridation opponents contend is a host of potential fluoride-related medical problems.
Alan Robbins, a dentist who practices in Timberville, plans to attend Thursday’s meeting as well.
Robbins has attended previous council meetings and has spoken in favor of fluoridation.
He reiterated his position that all “credible evidence” supports fluoridation.
“Much of the statements in [the declaration] are blatantly false and some are misrepresentation of facts,” he said. “Really all the credible research for years and years even up to the present has shown that fluoridation is safe and effective.”
Mayor Don Delaughter said he expects the council to discuss the issue at Thursday’s meeting but was unsure whether it will take a vote that night.
But, he said, when it does take action on the issue, it’s going to be close.
“We’re going to wait and see what the council has to say,” he said. “I really don’t know how the vote will go if they choose to do a vote Thursday or not.”