Fluoride Action Network

Columbia: Board OKs fluoride removal from water

Source: The Daily Herald | September 26th, 2013 | By Bailey Loosemore

Columbia City Council member Mike Greene grew up in a rural area drinking well water without fluoride, and he still has all his teeth. His parents, who drank the same water, have their teeth, and his siblings have theirs.

“Everybody can afford to take care of their teeth,” Greene said. “… I grew up in the country on well water, and we took care of our teeth. We didn’t have fluoride, and everything worked out OK.”

Greene was one of three members of the five-member Columbia Power and Water Systems Board of Public Utilities to vote Wednesday to discontinue fluoridating the city’s water. Board chairman John Collier voted against the discontinuation, and member Marvin Sandrell could not attend the meeting to vote, though he said he would have liked to continue the chemical’s use.

The recent vote came after months of deliberation from board members, who reviewed more than 200 pages of documents submitted to them by the public.

CPWS officials first announced the possible removal of fluoride in July on customers’ bills. The board planned to vote on continuing the chemical’s use at its August meeting but delayed the vote until this month in order to receive more information.

On Wednesday, the choice to discontinue fluoride came quickly, with board members voting on the subject without voicing the reasons behind their decisions.

Greene said after the meeting that his research of fluoridation showed the chemical is hazardous for consumers who ingest it, as well as being dangerous for employees who handle it.

“I have a tube of toothpaste at home that I bought that has fluoride in it. It says ‘don’t let children under the age of 12 use this,’” Greene said. “So if the toothpaste manufacturers that put fluoride in their toothpaste say do not let children use it, then that tells me that they know it’s not good for them.”

Local dentists disagree that fluoride is dangerous, saying the small amount of the chemical in water makes children and elderly people’s teeth stronger. Now that fluoride will no longer be in the water, Dr. James Hutton of Columbia said he will likely see more children with cavities within the next few years.

“For me, this was a sad day for the children of Maury County,” Hutton said.

Local dentists also said they think taking fluoride out of water will be detrimental for people who may not be able to afford dental care or basics like toothpaste.

“Everybody in that room can go to the dentist and have all kinds of treatments they want and can afford,” Dr. Andy Woodard said of the CPWS board. “That’s not everybody.”

Following the vote, CPWS will continue to put fluoride in the city’s water until the utility’s supply runs out, which will likely take a few weeks, General Manager Wes Kelley said. Because fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical, the water will still have a very small portion once CPWS discontinues the process, he added.

The CPWS official said he anticipates receiving more calls about fluoride.

“For people who either haven’t decided or have decided that we made a mistake, there’s research out there for them to do before they judge what we did,” Greene said.