Mims residents will soon have their say after they were shut out of a snap vote by the Brevard County Commission in May that led to the removal of fluoride from their drinking water.
A ballot going out with their July water bills will give them a chance to overturn that decision — if enough of them vote, according to County Commissioner Rita Pritchett.
The survey will follow a community discussion planned for 5 p.m. Monday at the Cuyler Park Community Center, 2329 Harry T. Moore Ave. in Mims.
Fluoride has long been added to drinking water in much of the United States as an inexpensive and equitable way to combat tooth decay.
Despite the near-universal support for water fluoridation among medical and dental industry groups — and recommendations in favor of the practice by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service — it’s also long had its opponents, who argue the mineral can have harmful side effects.
Supporters, including members of the Brevard County Dental Society, and critics of water fluoridation will each give presentations at Monday’s event, and the public will have an opportunity to comment and ask questions.
Residents who are unclear on the science behind fluoride or unsure of their support for the measure are encouraged to attend, said Pritchett, who is also the County Commission Chair.
“I just want the consumer to know what it is and make a good choice on their own,” she told FLORIDA TODAY.
County leaders at the May 4 commission meeting approved Pritchett’s request to end water fluoridation at the county-run Mims Water Treatment Plant in her district, in a haphazard vote that was not announced beforehand on the meeting agenda.
She later admitted she should have made an effort to include the community in the decision, which impacted about 8,000 residents.
Pritchett’s announcement of the Monday event came amid pressure from Brevard County dentists and local health experts who strongly opposed the move, including Brevard County Health Director Maria Stahl.
Dr. Angela McNeight, president of the Brevard County Dental Society, previously expressed worries that the lack of fluoride could lead to an increase in cavities and related conditions, and to additional pain and expensive dental treatment for Mims residents.
Pritchett said she has “strong feelings” about fluoride, which she said aggravates problems with her thyroid.
“I think it does cause problems,” the District 1 leader said, adding that she filters the drinking water for fluoride at her Titusville home. “I can’t do fluoride at all.”
While some studies have suggested a link between high fluoride exposure and thyroid hormone deficiency, the evidence is not conclusive and is contradicted by other research, according to the American Thyroid Association.
The CDC has said fluoride in drinking water, at levels recommended by public health agencies, has proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce cavities by up to 25% in children and adults.
Water fluoridation is supported by virtually every major public health and dental organization, including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.
The ballots going out with the July bills offer Mims customers their first and possibly only chance to undo Pritchett’s decision to halt water fluoridation at the Mims plant.
Pritchett said she would consider restoring the practice if a supermajority of customers — meaning two-thirds of all responses, she said — vote “yes” to adding fluoride back to the water.
That’s provided enough people return the ballots, she said.
“I’m hoping it’s very strong on one side or the other so there won’t be any question,” Pritchett said. “If I only get 10, that’ll be difficult.”
She picked the two-thirds threshold based on the results the last time Mims residents voted whether to fluoridate their drinking water, she said. About 71% voted in favor, with a 95% response rate, Pritchett said.
More on fluoride in Mims:
- County leaders seem to have accidentally approved removing fluoride from Mims water
- Following a no notice vote, Brevard County okays cutting fluoride from Mims water
- Public wrongly bypassed in drinking water issue | Editorial
- Titusville leaders say no plans to end fluoride in drinking water as dentists rally
- Pritchett admits blunder on Mims fluoride, hints public could overturn decision
- Two local dentists debate the benefit of fluoride | Opinion
County spokesman Don Walker said the county began fluoridating water at the Mims plant in 2002.
Addressing Mims residents, Pritchett added: “It’s very important they vote, and we’re looking for a very defined supermajority vote from you guys sending in your ballots.”
According to a “rough draft” of the ballot provided by the county, residents will have until August 6 to put their completed ballot cards in the mail. No additional postage is necessary.
“This decision belongs to the Mims Water System Customer,” the draft ballot said.
Note: See All News Articles on the fluoridation issue in Mims