Fluoride Action Network

Arcata’s fluoride talk draws contentious discussion, falls flat

Source: Times Standard | February 5th, 2020 | By Ruth Schneider

Without a second, item won’t go to ballot

The Arcata City Council took up the issue of water fluoridation on Wednesday evening, considering whether to add a ballot measure in November 2020 asking voters’ opinion on the issue. The council, after hearing comments from a wide swath of Humboldt County residents, never actually voted because there was no second on the motion.

The issue was brought forward by Councilmember Paul Pitino, who talked at length about what he has learned about the issue since the city last voted on the issue in 2006. At one point late in the meeting, he tried to remove fluoride through a council motion but he did not receive a second on the motion and returned to seeking it as a ballot measure. There was no second on that motion either and it died.

Mayor Michael Winkler expressed support for the ballot measure early in the meeting but declined to second in his role as mayor.

“The U.S. stands out as being somebody that fluoridates most of our water systems,” Pitino said Wednesday night. “Just because we do it, doesn’t mean its right. … Adding fluoride to our water system is dubious. And the first rule is do no harm.”

He pointed to studies that backed up his perspective and cited potential ill effects of neurotoxins.

“Fluoride is a problem because of its neurotoxicity,” he said. “They are not saying it doesn’t help kids get their teeth. … They’re saying that it lowers IQ in children. There are studies. They are valid studies.”

“When you look at all the studies, you say, ‘uh-oh.’ In my mind, I would not fluoridate,” he added.

Providing background, City Manager Karen Diemer said the city began fluoridating water in 1956.

The city also took costs into consideration.

Arcata currently spends about $16,500 on fluoridation materials, supplies and contract lab costs and an additional $19,500 on staff time. It is estimated it would cost less than $5,000 to add the measure to the ballot.

The public was mixed on the issue, even among those who identified as medical professionals. One self-identified dentist said he invited researchers from UC San Francisco who could talk about the “real science.”

In contrast, a woman who identified as a nurse said she was concerned about fluoride.

“Fluoride is a drug. It is classified as a drug,” she said. “That means it is toxic. … This might be causing irreparable damage to our children.”

Kelsey Reedy, an Arcata resident, also cited concerns about fluoride.

“This is something I had an issue with since I moved here 10 years ago,” she told the council. “I get the concern of children’s dental health but giving consensual medication is not the answer.”

Public health officials also spoke out during public comment, noting the benefits fluoride has on reducing dental issues in young children.

Data show about 30% of incoming kindergarteners in Arcata schools have untreated tooth decay, said Laura McEwen, a Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services program services coordinator. She said students from areas without fluoride have levels of decay as high as “nearly 60%.”

Several comments raised concerns the City Council was promoting an angle and items on the ballot should be brought forward by voters rather than councilmembers. City attorney Nancy Diamond affirmed the council had the authority to put a measure on the ballot.

Robert Berg, a Eureka-based dentist said he “would like to see the fluoride remain in the water,” because it is helpful to low-income families.

Connie Stewart, the executive director of the California Center for Rural Policy, called fluoride “an equity issue” because not everybody can afford to go to the dentist. And she added it was only an issue because the city has fewer than 10,000 connections.

State law mandates areas servicing “water systems with 10,000 or more service connections to fluoridate their water supply,” according to the staff report. Arcata has about 6,000 connections.

Both councilmembers Brett Watson and Sofia Pereira suggested voters take up the measure if they want to see it on the ballot, but both noted Arcata voters rejected it 14 years ago.

“This was voted on by the voters.,” Pereira said. “It was voted overwhelmingly down.”

Watson said it would require signatures from 10% of Arcata’s registered voters to get an item on the ballot.

*Original article online at https://www.times-standard.com/2020/02/05/arcatas-fluoride-talk-draws-contentious-discussion-falls-flat/