At Village Council’s May 3 meeting, Council members agreed to this summer sponsor a public forum addressing whether to continue fluoridating Village water, in an attempt to present both sides of the issue and examine recent research.
“Tonight we’re discussing the next steps rather than the content,” said Council President Judith Hempfling, who proposed the forum, at Monday’s meeting.
The issue of whether the Village should continue fluoridating local water has been controversial since it was introduced last month by the Village Environmental Commission, also known as EC, whose members recommended that the Village stop the practice, which has been in place since the mid-1950s. Commission members made the recommendation due to public health concerns and reported links between fluoride and a range of health problems.
The EC recommendation has sparked considerable controversy in the community, with some villagers writing letters and speaking passionately against fluoridation at Council meetings, and others, including local doctors, speaking for the practice.
The forum could help the community decide by presenting arguments both for and against fluoridation, along with recommendations from the National Research Council Report, European practice and research, and what has been learned about fluoridation since it was first introduced to municipal systems in the 1940s, Hempfling stated. Council charged EC member Vickie Hennessy with finding voices both for and against fluoridation, a task Hennessy accepted, while also wanting to make clear that she personally opposes the practice.
Council member Karen Wintrow stressed the importance of presenting a forum with a balance of views, and also expressed interest in a citizen referendum on the November ballot.
However, the issue of fluoridation is a safety issue, not a political one, according to villager Joe Cook, who questioned the referendum option.
“Council is responsible for protecting the safety of citizens,” he said, and the issue should not be decided by a majority vote. At the current time, villagers have no choice but to ingest the fluoride because it’s added to the water. However, even if it’s removed, those interested may choose to use topical applications of the chemical, which have been shown to positively affect dental health.
“No one in the village is so ignorant or uninformed that they can’t figure out how to use fluoride,” he said.
Speaking for fluoridation, retired physician Carl Hyde applauded Council’s plan to sponsor a forum, which he believes will be helpful in providing accurate information. According to Hyde, since the first introduction of fluoride in the mid-1940s, small groups opposed to the practice have been organized and those groups continue “to recruit well meaning but gullible citizens, people who don’t understand statistics,” he said.
In response to a question from Council, Village Manager Mark Cundiff reported that currently the practice of fluoridating local water costs the Village about $3,300 to $3,500 a year, and consumes about one hour per day of Village staff time.