A debate over fluoridation may rear up once again in Collier County commission chambers Tuesday.
Commissioner Tom Henning’s assistant, Camden Smith, is set to petition commissioners to stop fluoridation of the county’s drinking water.
Smith said she will raise issues about the health and safety of using cavity-preventing fluoride in drinking water and ask commissioners to “stop putting a medical treatment into a public utility.”
“I’m not saying fluoride isn’t beneficial to children,” Smith said. “But 89 percent of our population is over the age of 10 and has no medical need for fluoride. When even the cheapest toothpaste on the planet has fluoride in it, we are not servicing the public good.”
Nobody should be forced to ingest fluoride, she said.
“While I agree it is a moderate amount of fluoride in our drinking water, the problem is we’re bathing in it, drinking it and swimming in it,” she said. “I respect anyone’s choice to put medical treatment in their water, I asked to be given the same choice.”
Federal, state and local health officials and dentists have long supported fluoridation, saying decades worth of studies have shown it is safe at levels used by Collier County and throughout the country since the 1940s. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called it one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century, along with vaccinations and recognizing the risks of tobacco.
Opponents of fluoridation, though, contend that exposure to fluoride over a long period for some people can cause disease, weaken bones and damage glands and the brain.
The debate over fluoride in drinking water seems to pop up every few years, said Jennifer Gomez, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County.
“Throughout more than 70 years of research, the overwhelming evidence is that fluoridation is safe and effective in both children and adults,” Gomez said.
Smith will present the petition as a resident, not on behalf of Henning.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in 2011 to keep fluoride in the water, with Commissioner Georgia Hiller fighting to remove it. Henning said at that time he wasn’t convinced one way or the other. Commissioner Donna Fiala supported fluoridation, while Tim Nance and Penny Taylor weren’t yet on the commission.
The Naples City Council voted in 2012 to keep fluoride in city drinking water after a resident raised concerns.