Ending 50 years of a practice that many people find beneficial to the public health certainly warrants more than just a couple of meetings over the course of two weeks. That’s why the Fairbanks City Council should reject, or at least table for a lengthy period, Councilwoman Vivian Stiver’s proposal to end the fluoridation of water by utilities serving city residents.
The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the fluoride proposal tonight.
The generally held view on fluoride is that it helps reduce the number of cavities people get. Fluoridating municipal water supplies has become a regular practice over the decades throughout the nation, and the teeth of millions of people are better because of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government’s leading branch of medical authority, endorses the use of fluoride by a wide spectrum of the populace. Fluoride is clearly good for teeth, the CDC says, and adding it to the water supply to reach the masses in a convenient way makes obvious sense.
But not everyone holds that view of fluoride’s benefits, of course. Few topics out there, especially those involving government use of chemicals that find their way into the bodies of citizens, are devoid of opposition — and fluoride once in a while finds itself in that category, as is the case lately in the city of Fairbanks.
What we need to see from our local leaders is a level-headed look at the facts. Looking at the record for a few hours is nothing more than a start. If the City Council wants to overturn decades of fluoride use in the city, it needs to be exceedingly solid in its reasoning. Why, you ask? Look at it this way: If the council eliminates the use of fluoride, it’s possible that thousands of people could suffer the dental consequences over an extended period of time. Has the council thought about that?
Councilwoman Stiver, responding to the urging of some who live in and out of Fairbanks, says the decision to use fluoride “should be a matter of choice” and not a dictate from the government. That alone is not a reason to end fluoridation of the water supply. Government regularly sets health requirements. Using the logic of Ms. Stiver’s fluoride proposal, perhaps the school district shouldn’t worry so much about the government-mandated nutritional content of the lunches it serves to children at the area’s elementary, middle and high schools.
Facts, not emotion and anti-government sentiment, are what should govern the fluoride discussion. Time is aplenty, so let’s make good use of it. The council shouldn’t vote on the fluoride proposal any time soon.