Some of you have been asking whether Lawrence is going to have a great fluoride debate.
If you remember, City Commissioner Hugh Carter in February caught folks by surprise by asking the city to at least do more research on whether adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water is a good idea.
But thus far, that appears to be an issue that other city commissioners and the current crop of city commission candidates are avoiding like a root canal.
The city auditor put together a memo on the most recent studies related to benefits or dangers of water fluoridation. Commissioners have had that memo since late February, but haven’t brought it up once at a City Commission meeting.
The memo basically directs commissioners to three reports conducted by the National Research Council, the Congressional Research Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The reports do recommend a lowering of the amount of fluoride that is allowed in treated drinking water. The thinking, according to the reports, is that as more food and beverage products are made with fluoridated water, that the public is ingesting fluoride in more ways than ever. The city auditor notes Lawrence’s fluoridation policy already meets the lower guideline.
I recently asked each of the City Commission candidates for their views on the fluoride issue, and none advocated for the city to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water.
Most flatly rejected the idea. Jeremy Farmer was the lone candidate who left the door open a bit. Farmer said he does think there are many nutritionists who object to the idea, but studies show fluoride has improved dental health.
“Until presented with other compelling information on how unhealthy fluoride may be, I’m O.K. with it,” Farmer said.
Others had stronger opinions. Leslie Soden said she found it “a little embarrassing” that city commissioners were “wasting the time” of the city’s auditor to compile a report on the subject.
Scott Criqui said he thought the science behind water fluoridation was pretty sound.
“It has been so well studied, and the health benefits dramatically outweigh any downsides,” Criqui said. “I haven’t heard anyone articulate a concern in a very scientific way.”
Terry Riordan, who is a medical doctor, said he has “no concerns” about the city’s water fluoridation practices. He said he not only supports the idea as a City Commission candidate, but also as a health advocate.
The other two candidates, Commissioner Mike Amyx and Rob Chestnut, said they haven’t seen any information that causes them concern about the city’s practices.
The issue has been a hot topic in various communities across the country at times. But it hasn’t been much of one in Lawrence at any point in the last couple of decades.
That is interesting because one of the world’s foremost opponents of water fluoridation lives in Lawrence. Albert Burgstahler, professor emeritus in the Department of Chemistry at KU, is the longtime editor of the journal Fluoride, which publishes much research advocating against water fluoridation.
Burgstahler will host a public forum at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at 1001 Malott Hall on the KU Campus to discuss research related to fluoridation of public drinking water.