The dialogue about fluoridation in Independence grew louder Monday night.
Six speakers lined up after the Independence City Council meeting to discourage the idea of raising the level of fluoride in the city’s waterand urged council members to do their own research on the question.
“There are no benefits, only risks for infants,” said Clayton Hartig. He listed several European countries — among them Sweden, Switzerland and Norway — that, he said, had reconsidered the wisdom of maintaining certain levels of fluoride to inhibit tooth decay.
“The citizens of Independence need to wake up,” he said.
“The health of children’s teeth is the emotional basis” for those supporting the benefits of fluoride, added Bob Parkey. “Water is an inappropriate delivery system,” he said, adding that Independence citizens should not be forced to “ingest medication against their will.”
The Independence Water Department supplies water to about 250,000 people in 11 cities and water districts, including Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Oak Grove.
Three other speakers, meanwhile, testified in favor of fluoride. Jim Lowe, chief of dental services at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, reminded listeners that Independence “would really be adjusting the fluoride level, not adding fluoride,” he said.
Fluoride occurs naturally in most water. In Independence, it measures at 0.3 to 0.4 parts per million. That is below the 1 part per million recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Dental Association.
James Elias, an Independence dentist, spoke of treating children in Cartharge, Mo., where a high percentage of fluoride occurs naturally in water. Children he saw with “green fur” on their teeth from poor dental care nevertheless exhibited little tooth decay. That probably was due, he said, from the higher levels of fluoride in the water.
“Fluoride does make a difference as far as decay is concerned,” Elias said, also telling council members that they had an “opportunity to help a lot of people.”
Dean Perkins, director of oral-health programs for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said that the federal Centers for Disease Control believed that “fluoridation was one of the 10 most important public health achievements of the [20th] century.”
Still other speakers disagreed.
“These dentists don’t tell you the whole story,” said Bill Baggett. Laura Allison urged council members to search out information on their own. Jerry Banark referred to the applause from those in the council chambers cheering those opposed to higher levels of fluoride, adding, “If I understand the audience, we are going to win.”
Some of those opposing adjusting the fluoride level in Independence water often heckled those speakers supporting it.
Near the meeting’s end, Mayor Ron Stewart read a letter he wrote to the city’s Public Utilities Advisory Board, asking that the precise method of adjusting the fluoride level in the city’s water be examined.
“This council has a very tough road ahead,” said Stewart, adding that he was determined to see the issue resolved while allowing everyone’s input.
A public hearing on the fluoridation issue tentatively is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the Independence City Council chambers.