Fort Collins residents embraced fluoride Tuesday, voting 2-to-1 to keep the cavity fighter in the city water supply.
“Everyone is greatly relieved that we have dodged a bullet,” said Larry Sarner of the “Vote No” campaign.
“This is a public health issue,” he said. “I hope this will temper the move in other cities.”
Pati Caputto, of Fort Collins Clean Water Action, wasn’t available for comment. The group backed the ballot measure, which would have forced the city to stop adding fluoride to the water.
“I don’t think fluoride is a terrible poison, but there are doubts,” said Dr. Bob Bennell, the only local dentist to publicly oppose fluoridated water.
“The people had the right to make the decision,” he said.
The Colorado Dental Association, Colorado’s entire congressional delegation and the Fort Collins Dental Society backed Vote No.
Fort Collins Clean Water Action raised about $7,000, compared with about $26,000 for the Vote No campaign, campaign finance reports show.
Many of the anti-fluoride supporters were alternative health practitioners – chiropractors, acupuncturists, nurses and massage therapists.
“The arguments from the anti-fluoride side don’t stand up to scientific study,” said Dr. John Hanck, a Fort Collins dentist.
Hanck, president-elect of the Colorado Dental Association, said that the pro-fluoride studies far outnumber the anti-fluoride research.
“We are much better off with fluoride in the water,” he said. “In cities that removed it, tooth decay went up by 35 percent in a few years.”
Bennell said that dentists should educate patients about good dental care, not just “drill, fill and bill.”
He said that the money spent on fluoridating the water should be spent on dental care for low-income people with poor nutrition, who might have more dental problems.
Colorado Springs, Pagosa Springs, Telluride and a few other cities have removed fluoride, in part because of the cost. There was no public vote in those cities.
Nationally, about 100 cities have decided to stop fluoridating the water. About two-thirds of Americans who rely on city water supplies drink fluoridated water.
In Boulder, a petition drive is under way to put the question before voters, said Dr. Lori Kemit, a Boulder dentist.
“Fluoride is toxic,” said Kemit, who started the effort last week. “People get fluoride in toothpaste, milk and soda pop. Sugar and carbohydrates cause decay. Fluoride doesn’t prevent tooth decay.”
She said that while low-income people often can’t afford fluoride treatments, or understand the importance of brushing with fluoride toothpaste, the risks of disease outweigh the benefits.
“People should have the right to choose whether it is in their drinking water or not,” she said.
In the early 1900s, Colorado Springs dentist Fred McKay was among the first to notice that children with dark stains on their teeth rarely had decay.
His research found that the children drank spring water with a high concentration of fluoride.
Starting in the 1940s in Grand Rapids, Mich., cities started adding small doses of fluoride to the water.
Ballot Issue No. 2 • An ordinance repealing Section 26-50 of the City Code so as to prohibit any person, agent or any public or private water system from adding any fluoride or fluoride-containing product, substance or chemical to the public water supply which is intended to cure, mitigate, treat or prevent any disease in man above the general purpose of making the water more potable.
• For: 10,501
• Against: 20,626