After weeks attending and delivering speeches during Athens City Council, a group of anti-flouridation [sic] activists saw the body take up their issue during a committee meeting Monday night.
City Council invited in a couple of experts, who provided counter-views to the anti-flouride [sic] position that council had been hearing for numerous weeks.
Dr. James Gaskell, medical director at the City-County Health Department, and Jackie Wolf, an Ohio University medical professor, advocated the continued fluoridation of the Athens municipal water supply and pointed to a lack of evidence of harmful effects stemming from the fluoridation practice.
Gaskell said that his department “strongly supports” continued fluoridation of the area water supply.
“There is compelling and extensive evidence that appropriate concentrations of fluoride in drinking water prevents tooth decay,” he said. “This, in fact, is one of the greatest achievements in public health in the last 50 years. Fluoride occurs naturally and is found in all drinking water in various concentrations.”
He pointed to the various agencies that also support fluoridation, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Organization.
He noted what he deemed a lack of evidence that fluoridation causes adverse health effects. He further cited the United States adding vitamin D to milk and iodine to salt to help prevent health complications.
“There is no evidence that appropriation concentrations – that is appropriate concentrations – of fluoride cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, skin disease, arthritis, brittle bones, mental retardation, or any other state,” he said. “Our feeling at the City-County Health Department is that discontinuation of fluoridation of city water would be a regressive public health measure and would not be in the best interest of our community.”
Gaskell said that around 70 percent of municipal water supplies in the U.S. are fluoridated. Most of the rural water systems in Athens County, including Le-Ax Water District, fluoridate their water.
Second Ward Council member Jeff Risner asked about fluoridation practices overseas, and Gaskell said they address the problem slightly differently, including adding fluoride to their salt.
Risner also asked if there has been any evidence of birth defects since Athens started fluoridation about 10 years ago, to which Gaskell replied, “Absolutely not.”
At-large council member Steve Patterson asked about concerns regarding infants ingesting fluoride and the risk of fluorosis, which is a disturbance of dental enamel due to excessive fluoride.
Gaskell said that as a pediatrician, he prescribes fluoride to patients, including infants. He said that as long as fluoride levels are keep in an appropriate range, fluorosis isn’t a problem.
Wolf pointed to history, saying that before fluoride, tooth decay was “one of life’s certainties.” She said that if fluoridation is discontinued, it would constitute a social injustice in that children who don’t regularly visit the dentist will suffer from tooth decay.
“Fluoride has afforded us with the luxury of forgetting what it’s like to have our children have their teeth rot,” she said.
Gosney raised concerns that fluoride works primarily topically, as with tooth-brushing, as opposed to working well systemically (ingesting it in the water, for instance). Gaskell said that systemically the fluoride still gets into the teeth and many believe that systemically is the best way for that to happen.
Meanwhile, at-large member Christine Knisely cited the Ohio law that mandates the fluoridation of water. She said she sides with the opinion of Law Director Pat Lang that removing fluoride would be illegal under state law. She also raised the concern about local poverty and children who do not receive regular dental care.
“In Athens County, in Appalachian Ohio, with a poverty rate 25 to 30 percent if not more for our children, what more would we be wanting to do but protect them?” she questioned.
Abe Alassaf, an independent candidate for Athens County treasurer who has been a leading anti-fluoridation advocate, pointed to breastfeeding mothers exposing their children to much-too-large amounts of fluoride. He also said that long-term, fluorosis is brittling to the teeth.
“If Dr. Gaskell were my doctor, he could prescribe me a medicine and I could say I have to take this,” he said. “But at the local level, with the water being fluoridated, I don’t have any say in that. It’s just being put in the water, and I don’t have a prescription to take to the pharmacist to accept or reject that.”
He said that as a medical issue, a city legislator shouldn’t be able to tell a citizen they have to drink this water.
Jesse Brown, also a fluoride opponent, said it’s important to remember that fluoride is a biologically active chemical.
“By definition, that makes it a drug,” he said. “So by supporting the fluoridation of the city’s water supply, you’re supporting the mass medication of the people, which is illegal.”
He called fluoride a hoax.
“It’s not good for you; it’s poison,” he said. “It’s sold to us by phosphorous mining companies. Otherwise they would have to pay to dispose of it, but somehow they’ve tricked America into buying it and feeding it to their people.”