To fluoridate or not to fluoridate, that is once again the question before the Del Rio City Council.
Several leaders of The Border Organization, a local grassroots citizens group, accompanied by a number of Del Rio dentists and doctors, urged council members Tuesday night to reverse their Sept. 12 decision to discontinue the addition of fluoride to Del Rio’s drinking water.
“Not only the dentists, pediatricians, a variety of health care providers, but also many common citizens who have expressed their views during house meetings in Del Rio and in the colonias of Val Verde Park Estates and Cienegas Terrace were surprised and disappointed to hear of your decision to discontinue a scientifically demonstrated public health benefit,” Edna Molina, a leader of The Border Organization, told the council Tuesday.
At the outset of her presentation, Molina made sure each member of the council present for Tuesday night’s meeting had a copy of a Sept. 22, 2006 open letter to council members that ran on the opinion page of the Del Rio News-Herald.
“When the city council under the leadership of Mayor Dr. Alfredo Gutierrez Jr. initiated fluoridation, it was a great victory for our families and a major step forward in the public health of our community. It’s our understanding that city council (at that time) acted also to benefit Laughlin Air Force Base because all military bases must have their drinking water fluoridated at optimal levels for promoting dental health,” Molina told the council.
Molina said there are “many studies verifying the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation in reducing tooth decay.” Molina, a teacher who retired from the local public school district, also quoted a study commissioned by the 75th Texas Legislature that pointed to tooth decay and dental conditions as a factor in 1.57 million days of absence from public schools each year across the United States.
Quoting from the study, Molina said, “‘Failure to implement this public dental preventative measure will continue to result in substantially greater costs of dental care n Texas communities, including the cost of publicly financed dental care borne by all taxpayers.’”
She added, “We have heard the concerns of a few citizens who do not want their drinking water fluoridated. This can be addressed rather easily by them putting a filter on their drinking water faucet.”
Molina then asked the dentists and physicians who accompanied her to address the council and also asked several other members of The Border Organization to comment.
Dr. Larry O’Brien, Dr. Jose Reyes, Dr. Edson Martinez. Dr. George Bauer and Dr. L.G. Taylor all briefly made public statements in support of fluoridation.
Martinez noted that the children of Del Rio, where the public drinking water supply has been fluoridated, have fewer cavities overall than the children of Eagle Pass, where the drinking water is not fluoridated.
Reyes told the council that fluoridation is especially helpful for low-income families who cannot afford regular trips to the dentist.
“We’re asking that you put the fluoride back,” said Border Organization leader Luz Liserio of Val Verde Park Estates.
Eva Cortazzo, a community activist who lives in Cienegas Terrace, urged the council, “Don’t make your whole decision on one person’s say-so.”
Sandra Fuentes, another Border Organization leader, said she asked her family dentist about fluoridation “and I’m going to put stock in what my own local dentist says.”
Citizens against fluoridation of the city’s water also attended Tuesday’s meeting, but did not formally address the council.