A week after voting unanimously to eliminate fluoride from the city’s drinking water, Del Rio City Council members remain awed at the widespread attention they are receiving.
“I’ve had a tremendous reaction to this. I’ve received e-mails from all over the world, not just the United States,” said council member Pat Cole, who made the motion Sept. 12 to eliminate fluoride. “We thought we were dealing with a local water issue. It’s amazing to me so many people are against fluoride.”
Another council member said almost all the feedback has been positive.
“For the most part, people say we did the right thing, and they want us to stick with our decision,” Mike Wrob said.
The city had used the cavity-fighting water additive for 16 years without much controversy before retired biology Professor John Morony began telling the council more than a year ago that it’s a cancer-causing poison.
Information on the chemical.
After Morony’s second presentation Sept. 12, the council voted to make Del Rio fluoride-free.
“Right after the decision was made by council, I made a call at 8:17 p.m. to my operator to cease fluoridation,” said Mitch Lomas, manager of the city water plant.
“A lot of citizens are happy with the decision the council made and are applauding it,” he said.
Six years ago, San Antonio voters approved adding fluoride to city water, after three referendums and decades of often-contentious debate. More recently, Alamo Heights followed suit.
And with more than three-quarters of Texans drinking fluoridated water, Del Rio’s move to end the program for its 36,000 residents caught state health officials by surprise.
Tom Napier, the state’s fluoridation engineer who helped set up the Del Rio system 16 years ago, hopes to visit the city next week to speak with local officials.
Only last summer, Napier appeared before the Del Rio council to make the case for fluoride.
“After 60 years of research and usage in the United States, fluoride is proven to be effective and safe,” he said. “When you discontinue fluoride, you get an increase in cavities throughout the population.”
Napier said it’s quite unusual for a city of Del Rio’s size to abandon the additive.
“We lose one or two small systems a year, but Del Rio is not a small system. I was surprised and disappointed,” he said.
Morony, 70, said he is not against fluoride, but is opposed to putting it in the municipal drinking water.
“There is no dosage control. In the summer time, a construction worker outside will drink 10 times what someone in an air-conditioned office might drink,” he said.
Morony said he was particularly opposed to the form of fluoride being used in drinking water, hydrofluosilicic acid, a waste byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing.
“If they want to give it to the general population, put a pharmaceutical-grade fluoride in salt, like they do in Europe. Putting an industrial waste in drinking water is criminal. It’s insane,” he said.
Not all Del Rio residents, however, were pleased with the decision.
“It’s a bad move. They were misinformed, and without consulting anyone else, they took it hook, line and sinker,” said Dr. Larry O’Brien, a Del Rio pediatrician. “In the ’50s, it was a plot by the communists to make everyone docile. Now it causes cancer.”
Council member Cole, however, said she did not act hastily and doesn’t expect the city to reverse its stance.
“I have a feeling the council is going to stick with this because several of us are deep into the research and have been looking at it over a year,” she said.
She said it does not concern her that Del Rio has acted contrary to the advice of state health officials and has taken a different course than most of the large cities in Texas.
“I feel in my heart we’ve done the right thing. If anything concerns me, it’s the citizens of San Antonio drinking that water with fluoride.”