Aiken City Council decided to keep fluoride in its water after reviewing the issue Monday night.
For almost three hours, City Council members listened to people around the community address them on the issue of fluorination of City water. The review was conducted after Councilman Dick Dewar suggested that Council assess the issue after several constituents addressed concern regarding fluorination.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Oral Health Director Christine Veschusio started the discussion with a small presentation about the benefits of fluoride. She stated that studies have shown that fluorinated cities see a 27 percent reduction in dental decay in adults and a 30 to 50 percent reduction in children.
Bill Busser, a retired engineer who earned a master’s degree in statistical analysis, has studied fluoride for years. He stated that since fluoride is already found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, along with processed foods and drinks, it isn’t necessary to include it in the water due to the risk of dental fluorosis which causes staining or pitting in the teeth. He said he was bothered by the “one size fits all” approach of .7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water that the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated when infants should receive a much lower dosage of fluoride than adults.
“Let the doctors and dentists determine the correct level of fluoride for each individual,” Busser said.
Lessie Dack, an advocate of removing fluoride from water, mentioned that fluorination presents constitutional issues by forcing medication on a society that has a variety of topicals available to it already.
Some residents addressed concern for their own health, stating that they drank a lot of public water due to various health issues, and they were concerned with possibly suffering a fluoride overdose.
Several local dentists spoke to Council, including Dr. Rocky Napier. He said he has worked with a very diverse group of children, both who are exposed to fluorinated and non-fluorinated water. He asked the Council to first find evidence of the ill effects of fluoride presented at the meeting in the Aiken community. He added that the thousands of patients he has seen during the last 21 years of his career prove that fluoride is beneficial.
“It’s just part of the solution,” Napier said about fluoride’s part in the prevention of dental decay. “Community water fluorination is just a piece of the puzzle.”
Dr. William Webb based his argument on three generations of dental care within his own family. He said his father did not have access to fluoride and had all his teeth extracted at the age of 19. Webb did not have access to fluoride as a child and said he had nine crowns and couldn’t even count the fillings he had in his own mouth. He has two children, one who was 30 years old with one filling and the other at the age of 36 with no cavities at all. They grew up in Aiken and drank fluorinated water.
“I’ll leave the decision up to you,” Webb said to Council as he left the podium.
A retired professor of the University of Georgia, Mike Smith, was more neutral toward the subject, stating that fluorination did not really have substantial sources of study on either side of the issue that would allow Council to make an informed decision. He said it would probably be several decades before anyone truly knew the health effects of fluoride.
Council members seemed to agree that the issue of fluorinating water is a difficult one. Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said he needed to do more research before making a decision on what do to with the fluorination of public water, which has been done in Aiken since 1955.
Dewar said it was certainly a tough issue, but he was quite reluctant to go against medical professionals and possibly risk the dental health of Aiken’s children.
“It’s a tough decision, but I didn’t see enough to justify eliminating it from our water,” Dewar said.
Councilwoman Beverly Clyburn said she wasn’t ready to remove fluoride from the water after the long discussion but was willing to review it again if solid evidence against fluorination proves it is detrimental to the community.
“If anything is presented to us that proves otherwise, I think all of you should be rest assured that we will look at it,” she said.