The Columbiana Water Board has decided not to add fluoride to its water after the majority of customers responding to a survey said they didn’t want it.
The decision against fluoridation affects more than 5,000 households and businesses in Columbiana and on two smaller water systems served by its water department.
“I think it’s a shame, and our children will be the ones who suffer for it,” Columbiana City Councilwoman Scarlott Lowe said Wednesday of the Water Board’s decision against fluoridation. Lowe vowed to gather more public support in favor of fluoridation.
Opponents of fluoridation praised the board’s decision, saying there are too many health risks in ingesting a non-regulated water additive.
The customer survey was conducted through a questionnaire stuffed into the April water bills for all three utilities. Organizers said 22 percent of customers responded.
In the poll, 617 water customers voted against fluoridation and 493 voted in favor of it. There were 3,899 customers who either declined to vote or who had no opinion on the issue.
Among Columbiana residents who responded, more than twice as many favored fluoridation as opposed it 321 to 149. But they weren’t enough to outweigh overwhelming opposition from the Bethel and Little Waxie water districts.
The two smaller utilities serve customers in Shelby, Fourmile, Kingdom Crossroads, East Saginaw and other communities along Alabama 25 and Alabama 70.
“I’m still in favor of fluoride,” said Columbiana Water Board member Ouida Mayfield, who favored adding the element to the system’s water despite the survey results. She said there are too many people who live on meager incomes and who health experts say are more likely to develop cavities.
“Often it is these residents’ children who benefit most” from fluoridation, Mayfield said.
But the remaining two members of the three-member Water Board, Ty Sockwell and John Farr, said the system will abide by the anti-fluoride sentiment revealed in the survey results.
According to the state Department of Public Health, eight of 14 water systems in Shelby County do not add fluoride to their water. By contrast, all of Jefferson County’s 13 municipal water systems are served by fluoridated water, and 82 percent of Alabama’s water is fluoridated.
In Shelby County, the areas with fluoridated water are Alabaster, Helena, Hoover, Montevallo, Pelham and unincorporated north Shelby County.
“We’re disappointed,” state Dental Director Stuart Lockwood said of the Columbiana water decision. He promised to continue pushing for fluoride to be added to more Shelby County water supplies as a harmless way to prevent cavities and promote strong teeth, especially in children.
“I found it is not a cut-and-dried issue,” said Larry Moore, one of the 251 Bethel Water Board customers who voted “no” in the fluoridation survey. Moore, a high school teacher who lives east of Columbiana, said he had done enough research at home to conclude fluoride poses a health risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the World Health Organization have analyzed such concerns and determined fluoridation is safe and a good way to improve oral health.