BISBEE — Bisbee Council members voted to reduce how much fluoride is added to the city’s water supply Tuesday night, and they will seek more information before deciding whether to stop adding it all together.

Ward 1 Council Member Serena Sullivan said she made numerous attempts to contact Unibar, the company that supplies the fluoride, and never received a response.

“If they can’t stand behind the product, then we need to take a look at it,” Sullivan said.

Testing of the city’s water by state officials showed that Bisbee’s current level of fluoride is higher than recommended, Sullivan said.

Mayor Ron Oertle said he was upset that the fluoride issue was added Thursday to the council agenda, indicating not enough time was provided to alert people of an important community decision.

“This is the most important issue that we have ever considered because it deals with people’s health. In my opinion it’s absolutely essential not to take the fluoride out of the water,” Oertle said.

Warren resident Jeff Harris presented a petition he said has been signed by about 400 people calling on the city to stop putting fluoride in the water.

“The city has no business, in an Orwellian manner, mandating fluoride in the tap water,” Harris said.

Bisbee resident Maggie Kohanek brought a bag of gray powder and a breathing mask to show people what city workers use and wear when they add fluoride to Bisbee’s water supply.

“We’re trying to tell you this bag of fluoride is toxic, people,” Kohanek said.

Sierra Vista dentist Dr. Donald Simpson said the benefits of fluoride far outweigh the health concerns. He referenced 40 years practicing in the area and seeing significant differences between patients who have fluoridated water, and those who do not. Simpson said fluoride is “in everything,” including groundwater and well water.

“If you don’t want it there, you’re going to have to get a reverse osmosis filtering system, because it’s in Bisbee’s water naturally,” Simpson said.

Bisbee-area resident John Kuehne is the former Director of Research for the American Dental Association. Despite understanding concerns about fluoride he said adding the element to the public water supply represented an achievement for local public health.

Kuehne said 80 percent of the dental health issues affect just 20 percent of the population and fluoride reduces cavities and improves teeth.

“It’s really for the children and the poorest among us,” Kuehne said.

Sullivan said dental health has improved significantly for all countries, regardless of whether they fluoridate their water.

“The U.S. is fluoridating more than any other place in the world, yet we’re having just as many cavities as everywhere else,” Sullivan said. “The problem is our diet. I don’t think that it’s right to treat this with medication. I’m highly against it. The cause of the problem isn’t being treated,” she said.

Council member Joan Hansen authored a motion that passed 5-1, with Sullivan voting against, to reduce the city’s fluoridation level to 0.7 parts per million from its current level of 1.0. Members agreed to revisit the question after gathering more information from the city’s supplier and the health impact of fluoride on local water customers.

In other business, the council listened to a call from Bisbee resident Susan Blackford requesting that a new auditor be hired and that a forensic review of the city’s finances be completed for the past five years.

No action was taken on the request.

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