The fluoride debate that riled Portland this spring has come to Woodland with a public hearing planned for Monday.
City Council members want to hear what residents think about a request to remove fluoride from the city’s water system. A few city residents have requested the change, starting last summer, said Mayor Grover Laeske.
Norah Grooms, 61, is one of the residents who raised the fluoride issue, saying she doesn’t feel the additive is needed or safe.
“There’s nothing natural about what they’re putting in the water. It’s pure poison,” said Grooms, who has lived in Woodland since 1984. She’s concerned about several health risks some studies link to fluoride, including arthritis and hypothyroidism. Grooms suffers those herself, she said, but added she can’t say for sure if it’s due to fluoride in Woodland’s water.
Still, when she reads warning labels on fluoridated toothpaste telling consumers not to swallow the product, Grooms worries about why it’s added to the city’s water.
Woodland has fluoridated its water for 20 years, except for a break in the 1990s when equipment broke down and the practice stopped for a few years before resuming. It costs the city about $3,000 a year, according to a public works report.
The neighboring cities of Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, Vancouver, Battle Ground and Camas all fluoridate their water, according to a city report. Clark Public Utilities, Washougal and Ridgefield do not fluoridate.
Proponents say adding fluoride helps improve a city’s overall dental health, especially among low-income children. Opponents question whether fluoride is safe and believe other methods could prevent tooth decay. The issue got national attention in May when Portland residents voted down fluoridating the city’s water for the fourth time since 1956. That election became heated and dominated the airwaves for much of the spring.
Grooms, though, said she’d contacted the city before the Portland vote.
Woodland officials polled residents about fluoride with an insert in their water bills earlier this year. Of the 155 residents who responded, 54 percent favored removing fluoride. Grooms, though, worries that the small sample size may not be enough to convince the council. The former church secretary — she’s now on disability due to health problems — can’t attend Monday’s meeting but has sent letters and links to the City Council.
Laeske also said comments can be emailed to the council or left on the city’s website if residents can’t be present on Monday.
The council could vote on fluoride Monday night but also may schedule a vote at a later date, Laeske said.
Laeske hasn’t come out for or against fluoride. He notes that the council, and not the mayor, will vote on it.
“I will say I’ve talked to my dentist and he says fluoridation is good, and so have the people at the (Cowlitz County) health department,” Laeske said Thursday. “But I’m interested in hearing what everyone has to say.”
Monday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Davidson Ave.