The Fairbanks City Council has taken note of these concerns. About 50 or so people who have signed on with a group calling itself Fluoride Free Fairbanks are convinced that fluoride in the local public water supply is a bad thing.
The group does make some fair points, not the least of which is that they believe people should be allowed their own medical decisions rather than having a supplement injected into the public water supply. The group often points out that the city of Juneau pulled fluoride from its water supply last year.
Public policies always should be open for debate, and it is always instructive to watch what other communities are doing. But that doesn’t mean city officials should change public policy here based on the fact that there is disagreement about the risks and benefits of fluoridation or because Juneau did it.
There are conflicting views on the additive even within the dental profession, and the conflict is not a slight one. Either you believe fluoridation is a public health benefit, or you believe the public is slowly being poisoned.
That’s a pretty broad gap to bridge.
Those most at risk if the additive is pulled — if the full benefits of fluoride are to be believed — are lower income families or children whose parents are either not concerned or ill-informed about dental health.
For a practice that has been in place for decades, the council’s decision to take up a proposed ordinance after only one work session felt a bit hurried. It takes time to sort out this issue.
So it is somewhat reassuring to see that the council will hear from at least one expert.
At the request of the Alaska Dental Association, a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control will speak with the City Council by teleconference during a noon work session Thursday.
Maybe the CDC expert can help set some of the issues straight for us, but the testimony of only one expert seems inadequate. The studies of any one entity can be challenged or at least brought into doubt in public debate.
A little more time and discussion with more experts can’t hurt either side in a debate over the best course for public health.