At Monday night’s Town of Jonesborough Public Forum, there were degreed professionals and concerned laymen. Some came from down the street. Others from across the state.
But what the 100 or so men and women attending the July 18 meeting all seemed to share was a passion for their cause – and a very different way of looking at the topic.
“I know this is a deeply divided issue, but I do believe open dialogue is the key to finding a solution,” said Shawn Mann, a Telford resident.
The forum, according to town officials, was to provide additional information for the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen that is facing a decision on whether to continue to fluoridate Jonesborough’s drinking water.
Nearly 20 concerned residents signed up to speak to the board.
Like the results of the recent survey Jonesborough sent out to water customers about the fluoride, opinion seemed to be split down the middle.
According to Mayor Kelly Wolfe, the town received 782 surveys back. As answer to the question, do you want to continue adding fluoride to Jonesborough water, 376 said no, 355 said yes and 51 were undecided,
At Monday’s event, those opposed to continuing to add fluoride cited health risks, freedom of choice and safety of water department employees.
“I come from West Tennessee and I worked for 16 ½ years in the water business,” said Clark Culver, who had traveled from his home in Savannah, Tennessee, where the water is not fluoridated. He became involved in the issue about 10 years ago when Hardin County, where Savannah is located, was considering the issue.
“I started doing research,” he said. “It became an ethical issue. I felt like we should err on the side of caution.”
Lucas Guttierez, a lifetime Jonesborough resident, said he saw it as a matter of choice.
“I don’t drink Jonesborough water because of the fluoride,” said Guttierez, who added that he has a bachelor’s of science degree in biology with a minor in environmental studies.” It comes down to choice. To me, the state is taking my choice away from me. Nobody has any idea what dosage they are taking. You shouldn’t be forced to take it.”
Jay Jarman of Jonesborough believed in sticking to the facts about possible health effects.
“A lot of what people have said is anectdotal evidence,” said Jarman who presented the board with studies on fluoride’s impact on glucose tolerance, thyroid disease, metabolic and pituitary cells and liver and kidney function. “There is no study out there that says fluoride ingested is good for the body.”
Speakers in favor of fluoride in drinking water begged to differ.
Tim Carson, a Limestone resident, as well as the director of the Washington County Health Department, said he thanks Jonesborough for “safe, clean and fluoridated drinking water.”
At the Health Department, Carson said, health officials see a large number of children from a lower socioeconomic status.
“These children are disproportionally affected by dental disease,” he said.
According to Carson, as well as other dentists and physicians who attended the meeting, fluoride added to water provide a 25 percent reduction in cavities – and if the fluoride was removed, the ones most hurt would be children who couldn’t afford the best dental care.
“There is an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence,” Dr. David Kirskey said. “Dental caries is the most chronic disease in children in the U.S.” He believes fluoridated water is a solution.
In the end, board members expressed appreciation for the information with which they had been provided.
“I think it was good,” said Alderman Terry Countermine, who said he had come to listen and learn.
“I was surprised at the number of health professionals that were here,” Countermine added.
Chuck Vest was another alderman impressed by the wealth of information the night presented. “I wasn’t prepared for some of the arguments,” he said. “One thing for me is to study more about the possible side effects.”
Wolfe said the board will go over the information provided Monday and continue to look carefully at the subject — and that may take some time.
“Nothing is going to happen very soon,” Wolfe said.