Fluoridation is set to resume in Holmen on April 1, but the vote to restart it was just as close as the vote in 2011 to suspend. The motion passed 4-3 at the Holmen Village Board’s regular monthly meeting Jan. 10.
The swing vote in favor of fluoridation came from board member Michael Dunham. While Dunham said he personally opposes fluoridation, he supported it this time because Holmen citizens approved it in a 2008 referendum.
Dunham was the one who made the motion to discontinue adding fluoride in 2011, putting it on hold until expected new guidelines were approved. The new guidelines were finally received Jan. 2 from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services .
“That question (of whether to add fluoride) has already been decided by voters,” Dunham said, referring to the referendum held in conjunction with the 2008 presidential election.
Putting off the start of fluoride treatment until April 1 will give Holmen residents time to change their water systems if they choose. Dunham’s motion also requested that test results of fluoride content in water be posted on the village’s website for six months so residents can see that proper levels of fluoridation are being maintained.
Board members Tony Horvath, Dan Moser and Dawn Kulcinski, who voted with Dunham to stop fluoridation in 2011, remained opposed in the vote this month. Village President Nancy Proctor and board members Ryan Olson and Neal Forde joined Dunham to make a majority in favor this time.
Horvath said the new lower fluoride levels set by the DHS “essentially vindicates” his assertion in 2011 that the fluoride level was dangerous. He said it proves him right that “there is such a thing as too much fluoride and that people are getting too much.”
“We should not impose this on our community,” he argued. Horvath cited research on risks of fluoride, such as harming developing teeth in children, thinning bones of the elderly and damaging thyroid function. He warned that because fluoride affects people differently, “there is no way to know how it will affect any one individual in the community.”
At the very least, if Holmen does restart fluoridation, it should inform the public of risks, Horvath said.
Board member Kulcinski said as a new mother, she was warned by a nurse to avoid water with added fluoride and that while her child was young, Kulcinski, then a La Crosse resident, would travel to Holmen to bring back unfluoridated water in jugs.
In her research of the topic, Kulcinski said she has found that many foods have fluoride added, including chicken strips, lunch meat, pickles, grape juice and many others. “I didn’t know all this until I did this research,” Kulcinski said. “Your children are already getting fluoride from other sources.”
Nine people attended the Holmen Village Board meeting, one speaking against and several speaking in favor of fluoridation.
Carolyn Lawrence of Holmen told the board she doesn’t think fluoridation is tested well enough to know possible health risks and said referendum vote in 2008 was close.
“I think we do have the right to have clean water,” Lawrence said.
In 2008, 2,118 voted in favor of fluoridation while 1,856 voted against it. A little more than 53 percent of the voters favored fluoridation.
Another speaker, dentist Randy Moseng, said he supports fluoride treatment as a safe, effective and economical way of preventing 25 percent of tooth decay and also to promote healthy bones.
Moseng said he hands out toothbrushes when he has visited Viking Elementary and found children there who have never had a toothbrush.
“These are the kids we’d be helping,” he said, adding that it also helps the elderly who are too frail to properly brush their teeth.
He disagreed with people who compare fluoridation to being forced to take a medicine.
“It’s not a medication,” Moseng said, calling fluoride a mineral. He gave examples of adding iodine to salt and Vitamin D to milk as other ways public health has been improved. Fluoridation has been used in the United States for 67 years, Moseng said. “This is not new stuff,” he added.
Board member Dan Moser said adding fluoride should be done by individuals in their own homes. “There is no reason we should tell the whole municipality they need it,” he said.
But, board member Ryan Olson retorted, “we are not telling the people — they told us in a binding referendum that they wanted it.”
Dunham said he originally moved to Holmen because it didn’t have fluoridation. He said he ran for board office on a stance against. This time he only supported fluoridation in deference to the referendum vote.
But Dunham said he would support a citizen movement if someone wants to work against fluoridation. Dunham said he is sure some residents will be interested in altering their water system to remove fluoride, remarking that it would be expensive to do so.
Tuesday morning, the village distributed an agenda for a special meeting of the village board Thursday (after the Courier-Life deadline) to discuss a possible referendum on fluoridation.
The new state DHS guidelines call for a level of 0.7 milligrams per liter for public water systems, reduced from 1.0 mg/l previously. A control range of 0.6 to 0.8 mg/l was suggested since it is difficult for a water system to maintain an exact fluoride level at all times.
In other action, the board voted to discontinue providing laptops for board members’ use at meetings. The present laptops, which are becoming outdated, would soon need to be replaced and board members said they really didn’t need the computers to do their jobs.