DELAWARE, Ohio — Fluoridated water is something most city-dwellers take for granted. Turn on the tap, and every sip of water helps fight tooth decay. Some cities, however, citing reasons ranging from cancer risks to communist plots, never fluoridated their water supplies.
Delaware is one of those cities.
“A lot of my patients who’ve moved here don’t realize it until I tell them,” said Dr. Robert Green, a dentist and lifelong Delaware resident. “So we use fluoride rinses in the office, and most of the pediatricians in town prescribe some kind of fluoride supplement.”
For more than four decades, the American Dental Association has endorsed fluoridating community water supplies. Nationally, most cities have followed the ADA recommendation.
In 1969, Ohio lawmakers mandated fluoridation of municipal water supplies unless a city voted not to do it, either by ordinance or referendum.
At that time, Delaware voters chose not to add fluoride. In 1983, the City Council rejected a second bid for fluoridation.
Next month, however, the council will hold the first of at least two public hearings before voting on the matter.
“The response I’ve had from the community and from dentists and doctors in the area has been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Councilman David Godsil, who launched the current initiative this month.
Delaware is one of 25 cities statewide that don’t fluoridate the water, said Dr. Mark Siegal, who directs the Bureau of Oral Health Services for the Ohio Department of Health.
“A little over 85 percent of people in the state get their water from community water systems,” said Siegal, “and 90 percent of them get fluoridated water.”
Most drinking water, no matter what the source, does contain trace amounts of fluoride, a compound of the element fluorine.
Community fluoridation programs raise the level of fluoride in water. Most research on fluoride indicates that it helps harden tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
Biochemist John Yiammouyiannis disagrees.
If Yiammouyiannis has anything to say about it, Delaware water will remain unfluoridated.
The Delaware resident created the Safe Water Foundation in 1979 to oppose fluoridation.
“Fluoride is the greatest threat to the water supply than all other chemicals,” said Yiammouyiannis, who describes himself as “the world’s leading expert on the biological effects of fluoride.”
In his self-published book, Fluoride: The Aging Factor, he links fluoridation to cancer, osteoporosis and other diseases.
Yiammouyiannis was instrumental in engineering the 1983 defeat and vows another battle this year.
“Because of the way the stupid law was written, (the City Council) would be going beyond their powers if they overturned the referendum,” Yiammouyiannis said. “We would sue the city and each one of these people on council for dereliction of duties.”
Dr. John Stamm, a fluoride expert affiliated with the ADA, said the association has no reason to reverse its endorsement.
“One hundred and forty-five million people in the U.S. are served by fluoridated water, and most of them for decades by now,” said Stamm, dean of the School of Dental Studies at the University of North Carolina. “Its safety record has been extremely well-documented.”
Siegal said Ohio law allows anti- fluoridation referendums to be overturned.
“Five of the original 30 (cities) who opted out of fluoridation have overturned them,” Siegal said. “In Athens, Bellefontaine, Bellevue, Fairborn and Middletown, they did it by either council action or voter referendum. They’re also considering fluoridation again in Wooster.”
Godsil said the City Council members are “more than willing” to listen to the debate. Both Yiammouyiannis and Green said they will be among those to testify.
“In Delaware, especially in the youth, we’ve got a pretty high rate of tooth decay,” Green said. “I see kids with very clean mouths and lots of tooth decay, and I see kids with not very clean mouths and tooth decay.
“I think that not having fluoride in the water is a big contributing factor.”