The City of Fond du Lac’s water fluoridation issue may have dried up Wednesday night — but not for long.
After the City Council voted 5-2 against a referendum on the fluoridation additive, a group of fluoride opponents vowed to circulate a petition in an effort to place the referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot. Ultimately, the group is hopeful it will garner enough votes to discontinue fluoridation of the city’s water — a practice which has been in place since 1950.
“The people of Fond du Lac really lost tonight,” Richard Matthew said of the City Council’s unwillingness to support a referendum. “They based their votes on endorsements — not scientific facts or evidence.”
Matthew, whose position against water fluoridation is shared by outgoing councilman Bill Turner, held seven books on the perils of fluoride.
Had the councilmen read any of the books, he said, they would have voted differently.
Turner and fellow councilman Jim Nintzel, who said officials owe it to the citizens to put the fluoridation issue to a vote, were the two dissenters.
Still, the two may get their wish
A petition to direct legislation (a binding referendum with results that may not be altered by council) would require a minimum of 1,652 signatures, said City Clerk Tess Hochrein.
Statutes require signatures totaling at least 15 percent of the number of votes cast for governor (total of 11,014) in the last general election in Fond du Lac.
The council chambers Wednesday night were filled with nearly equal amounts of fluoridation opponents and proponents. Many in the crowd were dentists and doctors.
Dr. Henry Smialek, a Fond du Lac dentist who also said he is a water specialist, brought along two Kerr canning jars containing herbal tea brewed in his office. He said the first, a clear amber color, was made with distilled water. A second jar, appearing a murky brown, was brewed with Fond du Lac water.
Smialek said he knew as little about fluoride as the next person until he went to Saudi Arabia. There, he said he encountered high quantities of fluoride in the water supply and a great prevalence of tooth malformation and bone problems.
“Now, this fluoride issue is about open-mindedness vs. close-mindedness,” he said.
Vic Thomas Zuber, Fond du Lac, told council members one reason they should support a referendum is the risk of litigation.
“It’s like someone who smoked for 25 years suing the tobacco company,” he said, claiming that citizens are likely to sue the City of Fond du Lac for multiple millions due to unwanted fluoridation.
Warren Lemay, chief dental officer in the state Department of Health and Family Services, touted the safety, effectiveness and low cost of fluoridating the water supply.
He said opponents distract by claiming fluoride “causes virtually every disease known to mankind,” he said. “The reality is, all claims have been … found to be baseless.”
Dr. Warren Post, a Fond du Lac pediatrician, stressed that officials need to protect the children who don’t have a voice in the matter.
“Probably most at risk,” he said, “are the children who can’t make decisions for themselves.”
Dale Paczkowski, director of Fond du Lac’s Water Utility, said it costs about 50 cents per household and about 17 cents per person per year to fluoridate the water supply. He said about 0.4 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride occur naturally in Fond du Lac and another 0.8 ppm are added to create the optimum level of 1.2 ppm.
Optimum levels are set by the state Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Quality.
There was some dispute Wednesday night about the quantity of naturally-occurring fluoride. Paczkowski said he intended to investigate the claims.