It has been a longtime debate — to fluoridate or not to fluoridate the water system in Cadillac. According to Dr. James Wilson, the city of Cadillac is the largest city in Michigan that doesn’t add fluoride to the water. Although that is the case, Cadillac City Manager Pete Stalker said the city isn’t opposed to the idea.

“There is a rich history on this issue. It was brought up to residents for a vote four times, and each time it was turned down,” Stalker said. “In the past 10 years, it has come up many times before council. And after reviewing it, we decided to maintain a policy that if the people want it, we can do it. But it is going to take a vote.”

There is a one-time cost of $60,000 for equipment if the city were to add fluoride to the system. After that, city director of utilities Larry Campbell there would be a $30,000 annual chemical cost.

With Cedar Creek Township possibly initiating its own water supply and system, the subject of fluoride was brought up by Dr. James Wilson.

“According to The American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control, fluoridation of public water supplies is one of the top 10 public health successes of the 20th century,” he said.

On the other hand, advocates against fluoride believe areas that don’t have fluoride added artificially are lucky.

“The benefits of water fluoridation has been exaggerated by its proponents, while its long-term health risks have yet to be adequately addressed,” said Michael Connett, research director for the Fluoride Action Network.

Pro: Why Cadillac should add fluoride to water supply

Dr James Wilson, Cadillac, Mich.

Fluoride is a natural element that occurs in the earth’s water. The concentration can be manipulated to one part per million to significantly reduce dental decay and prevent osteoporosis. The fluoridation of public water supplies started in 1945 in Grand Rapids and the practice is considered one of the Top 10 Public Health Achievements of the 20th century.

This practice is endorsed by most medical and dental associations, including the American Dental Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization, as do many others.

Along with consuming less sugar, chewing Xylitol gum, good dental hygiene with flossing, brushing and using topical fluoride (toothpaste and rinses), fluoride in the drinking water can reduce decay 40 to 65 percent. Fluoride becomes incorporated in the fluorospatite material of the enamel to make the tooth resistant to decay. Fluoride in saliva may also be important in preventing tooth decay.

Currently more than 140 million Americans live in fluoridated communities. The poor and the children benefit most by this public health practice. Fluoride also becomes incorporated into the bones of the body to strengthen them.

If a new water supply is to be created in Cedar Township, then fluoridation of that public water supply should be instituted. The city of Cadillac is the largest city in Michigan without a fluoridated water supply. It is time the health of the general community should be promoted and the water supplies should be fluoridated.

Con: Why Cadillac water should be kept fluoride-free

By Michael Connett and Bill Osmunson, DDS, MPH

Citizens of Cadillac are lucky to enjoy water free of artificially added fluoride. While spiking water supplies with fluoride chemicals remains a popular idea with dentists here in the U.S., the practice has been rejected by most advanced western democracies, including 97 percent of western Europe.

Why did Europe reject fluoridation? Because too many questions persist about the safety of the practice, and because adding a drug to the water supply is not only bad medicine, but bad ethics as well. According to the Swedish scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Arvid Carlsson, the one-size-fits-all approach of fluoridation “is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s obsolete.”

Despite not adding a drop of fluoride to their water, communities in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have experienced greater declines in tooth decay than fluoridated towns in the U.S. Similarly, recent surveys here in Michigan, Missouri, New York and Washington State have failed to find any superiority in the oral health of kids drinking fluoridated water.

All drugs have side effects, and fluoride is no exception (just read the warning labels on any fluoride toothpaste). According to the latest review from the U.S. National Research Council (NRC), exposure to fluoride may weaken bones, cause joint pain, disrupt the thyroid and damage the brain.

Even the American Dental Association recently issued an advisory that infants should not drink fluoridated water — due to the risk of developing dental fluorosis.

The take home message: Water is for everyone, but fluoride is not. Cadillac should reject fluoridation.

Bill Osmunson is a practicing dentist and a spokesperson for the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). Michael Connett is FAN’s Research Director. FAN’s Web site is: www.FluorideAlert.Org.

Your local connection

When it comes to fluoride in the water system, Cadillac is the largest city in Michigan that doesn’t add fluoride to the water system. Although it isn’t opposed to the idea, the city’s stance is to let the residents decide for themselves.

In four separate occasions, residents voted against adding fluoride to the city’s water system. The years were 1965, 1973, 1976 and 1977.