To fluoridate or not to fluoridate? That is the question Grayson County leaders will have to make in the coming weeks for a new water system that will serve the towns of Independence and Sparta, N.C.
After citizens showed up in masses to both Alleghany County Commissioners and Sparta Town Council with 1,000-plus signatures on a petition against fluoridation, both N.C. governments voted against the procedure for the new water system being developed by the Virginia-Carolina Regional Water Authority.
(The authority is now looking at whether it can offer fluoridated water to Virginia and non-fluoridated water to North Carolina.)
During the Grayson County Board of Supervisors regular meeting on Dec. 9, five speakers pleaded with the board to take the same action on the Grayson County side of the system.
Linda Chekanow, of People for a Cleaner Environment, was the first to speak.
Chekanow said she was at the meeting to educate her neighbors of the dangers of fluoride in the town’s drinking water.
With well over 1,000 signatures against the process, Chekanow said it was clear that the residents were standing against the decision.
“Most of the people in our communities were completely ignorant that the water authority was planning and implementing a plan to fluoridate the water,” she told the supervisors. “Most were angry and became worried about their health and the health of their children.”
Chekanow provided the board with research to back up her claim that there are negative effects on the human body when it ingests too much fluoride.
“The more I looked up [research on fluoridation], the more sick I became about it,” she continued.
In 2007, Chekanow said legislation was put before Congress to end fluoridation, and a petition in favor was signed by more than 3,200 healthcare professionals.
She continued to speak about studies that outline negative effects on people — particularly in young children.
“Ingested fluoride, from food and beverages and water you drink, is a deadly poison that we are only now beginning to understand,” she said.
Noting that both sides of the argument have research and healthcare professionals that endorse either argument, Chekanow asked the board to make its decision based on two points — costs and loss of choice.
The funding, she said, has been provided by the federal government to buy the equipment and implement the process into the water system. After that, however, Chekanow said the costs of continuing to purchase the fluoride and put it into the water would fall on the taxpayers at a time when “necessary funds are being cut.”
She noted that last year it was the schools, fire departments and other community programs that were fighting to keep funding, yet the government would spend tax payer’s money for something she said most don’t even want.
Additionally, Chekanow said families with young children would be forced to spend their money on bottled water, as researchers have recommended babies under the age of one not have fluoride.
Chekanow also asked the board to consider the overall loss of choice by the citizens to have the fluoride.
“When you put a drug into a supply of water, you remove the element of whether people choose to have the fluoride… or regulate how much they get in a day and accumulated over their lives,” she said, noting that if people wanted more fluoride they could seek out tablets, fruit and other foods with fluoride in it.
“I reserve the right to make that stand for me and my family,” she said. “People are beginning to speak loudly and clearly and the more they learn about the dangers, the more clearly and more loudly they will speak.”
Chekanow then urged the board to vote, as the Sparta Town Council and Alleghany County Commissioners have, to put an end to water fluoridation.
“Take the power in your hands, along with the overwhelming evidence provided, and vote no on fluoridation,” she said.
Louis Zeller, of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, told the board that fluoride “is a toxic substance. “Once it’s put in the water, it’s impossible to control the dose.”
He added that fluoride problems are on the rise and that medical professionals are now saying that fluoride is not safe — especially for younger children.
Many nations that formerly used fluoride, are also phasing it out, he continued.
“It has been shown that the use of fluoride does not bring about an improvement in dental health,” Zeller said, addressing the popular notion that fluoride is good for your teeth. “What has reduced dental decay [in recent decades] is better nutrition and some other programs to improve tooth decay, such as dental care.”
Jerry Brooks spoke next against fluoride, and simply asked the board to “keep it out of [the] water.”
Brooks added that “people want the freedom to choose what they put in and on their bodies,” but if it’s in their water, they have no choice.
“I believe that water fluoridation is questionable at best,” he continued. “If in doubt, leave it out!”
Dennis Smith told the board that a double-blind study had never been performed on fluoridation and said that fluoridation is similar to tobacco, in that the government comes down on both sides of the argument.
“Fluoride was adopted and promoted by the government before the studies on safety and effectiveness were completed,” he said. “The government refuses to admit it was a bad decision.”
Mildred Richardson noted that many residents of the area were on fixed incomes and that it was “unfair to put another burden” on those residents when they have no choice if fluoride is added to their water or not.
Following the speakers, Chairman Larry Bartlett addressed the audience.
“I see your presentations are professionally presented. I see they’re informative,” Bartlett said. “I believe solely that this board will take your positions and consider them seriously… Thank you for your efforts.”
Earlier in the day, the Virginia-Carolina Regional Water Authority discussed fluoridation at its regular monthly meeting.
The authority decided to have engineers see if fluoridated water could be sent to Independence, while non-fluoridated water could be sent to Sparta.
The anti-fluoridation group also spoke at this month’s meeting of Independence Town Council.