BROOKSVILLE – Fluoride will stay in the city’s water.
A divided council voted late Wednesday to keep placing the chemical in Brooksville’s water supply despite attempts by one council member to stop the practice.
Three of five board members agreed there are not enough studies to show that fluoride presents a danger to the population.
Councilmember Lara Bradburn raised the issue earlier this budget season, arguing there is mounting evidence from the scientific community that shows the practice could pose a significant health risk. At a prior meeting, Bradburn had provided recent studies that suggest overconsumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland.
“When in doubt, it must be taken out,” Bradburn said.
But fluoride proponents showed up to fight the move, including some heavy hitters in the health field.
Fluoride has provided a clear benefit to the dental health of the community, Elizabeth Callaghan, director of the Hernando County Health Department, and Scott Tomar, chairman of the University of Florida’s Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, told the council.
The state stands behind the practice and even hands out grants for communities to get fluoridation programs underway, said Shawn Isaac, the state Department of Health’s fluoride project coordinator.
Deborah Trotter, a dental hygienist from Brooksville, presented the council with a petition of 50 residents supporting fluoride.
And Dr. William Holbrook, a longtime Brooksville dentist, told the council he remembers when the city began to add fluoride and how it markedly improved the teeth of his patients within just a few years.
“I was here and saw the decay,” he said.
Councilmember Richard Lewis said it would be a “sin” to take away something that benefits the community without convincing evidence.
“If it’s a sin, you must leave it in,” Lewis said.
Councilmember Joe Bernardini joined in the dissent. He said he’d rather take the $7,000 the city spends to fluoridate the water and pay for fluoridated toothpaste for those who want it.
Bradburn wasn’t convinced, either.
“They presented absolutely no empirical evidence to show fluoridation is safe and effective, and the reason is there isn’t any,” she said.
Bradburn said the council failed to protect those that studies indicate may be most vulnerable to negative effects of overconsumption: children, seniors and the infirm.
She said she’ll consider raising the issue again next year. Two council members who voted in favor of the fluoride, Mayor David Pugh and Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett, are up for re-election in November.
“I believe you’re going to see fluoride right up there with lead, arsenic, asbestos and the rest of the toxins that government used to say was safe,” she said.