Leo Hamilton is convinced adding fluoride to the water supply of Chippewa Falls is the wrong step for the city to take.
“I see no reason why the government should put fluoride in my water if I don’t want it,” said the former mayor and state legislator, who lives at 422 Frenette Drive. “I have yet to talk to anybody that’s in favor of putting this stuff in the water.”
Leo and his wife, Irene, support the topical application of fluoride to the teeth of children rather than ingesting it from the water supply.
Jack Covill of 601 N. Grove St. agrees.
“Most of what I read seems to point to that it’s most effective topically,” said Covill, who also doesn’t like the timetable the city is using to make a decision. “The push to have this done quickly kind of stinks.”
Covill said parents should have to sign consent forms before their children are administered fluoride.
“It is a type of medication. It should be everybody’s choice,” he said. “Once you fluoridate water, you’ve taken everyone’s choice away.”
Karen Polzin of 405 W. Vine St. echoed those thoughts.
“My biggest reason (in opposing fluoride is) I don’t want the government medicating me without diagnosing me,” she said.
“I don’t feel what we are going to be using is safe,” she said, referring to fluorosilic acid that would be added to the water supply. She said the ingredient contains lead arsenic and mercury, but in a range the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows. She said fluorosis, an illness from ingesting too much fluoride, is an accumulative illness.
Polzin and Leo Hamilton said Chippewa Falls uses 4 million gallons of water a day. Of that, less than 100,000 gallons are used by households, and perhaps 12,000 gallons of that is used for drinking.
“It’s kind of a waste of money, too,” Polzin said.
Pat Bleskachek says she’s against fluoride because of added costs and health concerns.
“We’re talking toxic waste to be putting in the water,” said Bleskachek, who lives at 1222 Superior St. “This is not a done deal. If people want their opinion heard they should vote on April 6.”
She is concerned about the cost of filtering out fluoride for the people who don’t want it, saying it would be too expensive.
“This is something we can’t put in (the water) indiscriminately,” she said.
Hamilton was one of the nine members appointed to the city’s Ad Hoc Health Issues Advisory Committee, which looked at the health benefits and drawbacks of fluoride. But he didn’t go along with the committee’s conclusion that, provided it is put into the water supply at the right amount, fluoride is a safe and effective way of preventing tooth decay in children.
Hamilton pointed out the committee had two dentists, three M.D.’s and the city’s public health officer on it.
“They felt this was the way to go before they were put on the committee,” he said.
Barbara Davidson of 721 W. Central St. also had problems with the ad hoc committee’s findings.
“They have not even considered the vulnerable population getting the fluoride in the water,” she said.
Davidson cites a passage from an April 1993 toxicological profile from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that says certain people are susceptible to the “toxic effects” of fluoride. The profile said those people include the elderly, those with deficiencies of calcium or magnesium, and people with kidney and heart problems.
Davidson is concerned about the welfare of children in the community.
“We have the resources in our community to get fluoride to children’s teeth, which is better for them topically,” rather than ingesting it from the water system, she said.
City council member Troy Thomas said adding fluoride to the water supply looks as though big government is forcing things on city residents.
“I’m solidly against it,” he said. “I don’t think the evidence is conclusive. And what evidence there is, there appears to be minor benefits to children under age 14.”
Reach Rod Stetzer at email@example.com.
How we got here
The issue of adding fluoride to the city water supply was raised in January by the Family Health Center of Marshfield, which is considering setting up a dental clinic for lower-income people in Chippewa Falls. The center is affilated with Marshfield Clinic.
The center has between $50,000 to $70,000 available in grant money to help offset the city’s cost of putting fluoride in the city water supply. But that money would have to be spent by June 30, or else the grant money will expire.
A committee made up of three city officials estimated adding fluoride would cost the city $209,000 in capital improvements and another $34,360 in annual operating costs. The cost would be paid by city residents in their water bills. The committee estimated the increased cost to a typical water user would be $2.40 a year.
A separate city committee, the Ad Hoc Health Issues Advisory Committee, concluded adding fluoride at the correct amount would be a safe and effective way to fight tooth decay in city children.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health says Chippewa Falls is the second-largest city in Wisconsin (behind Brookfield) that does not fluoridate its water.
A public forum on the fluoride issue will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 201 W. Central St. The public will vote on an advisory referendum on Tuesday. Then the city council will have the final say, voting on the issue at its Tuesday, April 20 session.