The debate over the feasibility of continuing to add fluoride to the City of Petal’s water supply continues, as officials have yet to come to an agreement over where to get the product, or if that measure would make sense given some of the purported pricing.

Petal dentist Dr. Barbara Mauldin, who recently supplied the Petal Board of Aldermen with a list of potential fluoride vendors, came to last week’s board meeting to say that she had contacted several of those businesses to obtain details. After striking out with several of the Mississippi companies – which said they could not provide fluoride to cities outside of their contracts – Mauldin got some good news from Industrial Chemical Supply of Mobile, Alabama, which is where the City of Hattiesburg purchases its fluoride.

“They even gave me pricing … about $98 a bag,” Mauldin said. “(In a recent year), Petal had bought 112 bags, so I quickly did some math there and ended up with less than $11,000.

“I don’t know how far 112 bags go, but (Industrial Chemical) said they’ve got it, it’s on site, and it’s ready to be sold. So I wanted to let (the board) know that we need to get our water fluoridated for the children of our town.”

Matt Fountain, supervisor with ClearWater Solutions – which handles the city’s public works – said he also made some calls, during which he had difficulty finding a vendor with an available stock. One company, for example, told him they had 200 bags in stock, but 400 already are allocated and the date of the next shipment is unknown.

“The problem is, the long-time customers, they’re going to take care of them first, because they’ve already pre-ordered theirs,” Fountain said. “Some of this has been on back order for three years.”

Mauldin said one of the vendors did tell her that the cost of sodium fluoride is running at approximately three times higher than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Mauldin said that measure applies to almost everything these days, including eggs at the grocery store.

“I mean, come on,” she said. “Everything we touch these days is infinitely more expensive … and I think that’s what you need to decide.

“But to say that it’s not at all available, I think was not completely truthful. I wish that we were one of those cities that had been on back order, instead of being here trying to re-establish a relationship.”

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health’s website, fluoride has been proven to protect teeth from decay, helping to rebuild and strengthen the tooth surface by replenishing minerals.

“It strengthens teeth that are still developing in young children, and helps prevent adult tooth decay as gums recede with age,” the website states. Fluoride is safe and cost-effective when added to community water systems that may require it, and fluoride treatment provides early, long-lasting prevention for children against oral and dental disease.”

Samantha McCain, who serves as chief communication officer for the City of Hattiesburg, said to the best of her knowledge, there has never been a problem procuring fluoride, and prices are currently normal.

The City of Petal began adding fluoride to its water supply in 2011. Approximately one-third of city residents, however, don’t receive fluoride in their drinking water, including customers of Barrontown Utility Association.

From October 2021 to August 2022, the City of Petal used 65 bags of fluoride; the previous year it used 112 bags. As of Mauldin’s first visit to the board, the city had not been able to obtain fluoride for approximately two months.

Studies from the American Public Health Association show fluoridated water prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, along with the use of other fluoride products. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the fluoridation of water to be “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

Fluoridation does have its opponents, however. The website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information – – lists several pros for the measure, but a few alleged cons as well.

Those include the fact that excessive fluoride intake may cause dental fluorosis; water may possibly be contaminated with toxic chemicals while being fluoridated; the effectiveness of fluoridation was not validated by any randomized controlled trial; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had previously classified fluoride as an “unapproved new drug.”

If the city’s fluoridization were to be discontinued, the board would have to notify the Mississippi Department of Health, as well as the residents of the City of Petal.

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