For decades, there have been periodic pushes for Greenwood to get with the health community’s mainstream and add cavity-fighting fluoride to its drinking water.
Every time there has been a push, the Greenwood Utilities Commission has bowed to the forces of irrational paranoia and done nothing.
Let’s hope the latest initiative from the state Department of Health breaks that pattern. A new regulation requires Mississippi water systems the size of Greenwood to fluoridate their water, provided they can obtain funds to pay for them.
The funding really isn’t an issue. If Greenwood Utilities wants to do this, there are plenty of sources of public and private grant money out there to get started. In fact, as inexpensive as fluoridation is, the city-owned utility could actually pay for it without outside help. According to the state Health Department, the projected annual cost for fluoridating a system the size of Greenwood comes to about $15,000 a year — 75 cents per person — over a 15-year time frame. That’s peanuts compared to the benefit it would provide.
Although the anti-fluoride voices shout the loudest, science is clearly on the side of fluoride. Virtually every credible medical and dental association in the world endorses fluoridation of water as an inexpensive and effective way to reduce dental disease and improve public health.
Although fluoridation benefits people of all economic and age levels, it would be particularly helpful to children from lower-income households, who don’t receive dental care regularly and thus don’t get the fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office that those of better means can afford. In Greenwood, that’s probably the majority of children.
Mississippi, as it is on most health initiatives, is behind the curve on fluoridation, but even in this state more than half of the population is presently served by fluoridated public water. Since 2002 alone, 64 water systems, including Itta Bena’s, have gotten on board.
Why hasn’t Greenwood?
Because it has allowed itself to be cowed by those who exaggerate the risks of fluoride and minimize its benefits. They’ll say fluoride is a poison, yet it occurs naturally in water, including Greenwood’s. They’ll point to the warning labels about ingesting fluoridated toothpaste, yet ignore the fact that fluoridated water has one-1,500th as much of the element as does toothpaste. They’ll act as if adding anything to water is unnatural, while ignoring the fact that Greenwood’s water supply has been treated for ages with bacteria-fighting chlorine — an overdose of which would be a whole lot more risky than that of fluoride.
Greenwood likes to brag about the quality of its water, but it could make it better by adding fluoride. It is backwardness that has kept it from doing so.