Debate over restoring fluoride to the water supply in the City of St. Croix Falls culminated in a split council vote, with Mayor Brian Blesi casting the deciding vote in favor of reinstating the divisive practice.
The April 8 vote reverses the Council’s February 11 decision to discontinue community water fluoridation. At that time, Blesi stated his support for an end to fluoridation; however, he reversed course citing further research of the topic.
Alderman Randy Korb and Alderwoman Loreen Morrell voted against reinstatement, while Council President Lori Erickson and Alderman Don Anderson voted for the measure.
The debate during the last month centered on the science: which studies were to be trusted and which were not.
“I trust the studies and the organizations that are putting out the studies (CDC, ADA, WHO), and I trust their opinion,” Erickson stated. “I move that we should keep fluoride in the water for the health of our community.”
Morrell contended that history shows that not all recommended health practices have ended well for the public.
“Lead, mercury, just name it, it’s all out there,” Morrell said. “It’s been a bad decision for us, but was backed up by pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession, and I have issues with that. Just because someone says that this is the way it is, doesn’t mean it has to be or should be.”
Korb said that, while he has the utmost respect for dentists and health officials, he has seen enough research detailing the detriments of fluoride to question medicating the community with it.
“When you look at many of the top researchers from the top universities in the world, they are concerned about fluoride,” he said. “Overall, I don’t think it is necessary to add it to the water.”
Both Morrell and Anderson said they received numerous calls from concerned citizens. Morrell stated that the overwhelming majority had asked her to vote against adding fluoride to the water, while Anderson said that his public input, which included his soliciting opinions from shoppers at Wal-Mart, had shown clear favor for reinstating fluoridation.
“I think this is such a worthwhile addition to alleviate the dental problems of our children,” Anderson said. “I just wish that I would have had this growing up and I didn’t. I think [fluoridation] is absolutely wonderful.”
Blesi said he anticipated it may come down to his vote.
“At the end of the day I have to conclude that we follow our authorities, and the authorities on this are the CDC and our local professional dentists, doctors, and public health representatives,” Blesi said. “So I’m going to defer to them and vote for reinstituting fluoride.”
Blesi plans to invite state and local professionals for a discussion to review pertinent information concerning fluoridation.
A member of the gallery questioned the redundancy of inviting the officials and professionals for a second time, when no proponents of fluoride came forward during the symposium held at the Civic Auditorium on April 3.
“I didn’t invite them,” Blesi replied.
The City did, however, invite the Polk County Health Department and the Fluoridation Program Coordinator from the Wisconsin Department of Health, Robbyn Kuester. Both declined to appear, citing the format of the symposium.
“I do have some serious concerns about this type of a forum and do not believe this format is effective in providing a balanced perspective on the scientific evidence related to community water fluoridation,” Kuester stated in a letter sent to City Administrator Joel Peck.
She offered instead to speak on an individual basis to council members.
It had been suggested that if fluoride were taken out the water the City may offer topical fluoride applications for citizens still wishing to have the medication. Korb suggested that the City instead look at ways to appease citizens not wanting it in their drinking water.
“I wonder if we could also accommodate the people who don’t want to drink the fluoride by possibly putting in a reverse osmosis device and make it available for residents to fill up their jugs for free,” he proposed.
One potential snag in reinstating the community water fluoridation program in St. Croix Falls is getting fluoride levels down to the mandated 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. According to Blesi, the City has been administering fluoride incorrectly at a higher level.
Peck said the Public Works Department is unsure of whether the current pumps can administer fluoride at the lower levels. The city may have to spend $4,000 to replace the five pumps.