Three months after the idea of removing fluoride from the water supply hit the table in Jonesborough, the public got to add their voices to the mix at the scheduled public hearing on the matter.
The hearing before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen yielded almost 20 speakers out of the group that filled half the Visitors Center Monday night, and some speakers came from as far away as West Tennessee to make their voices heard for the evening. Eight speakers, including several dentists and public health employees, spoke in favor of retaining water fluoridation while 10 speakers stood in favor of discontinuing the additional fluoride from the town’s water supply.
The eight proponents for added fluoride to the water supply cited health benefits, including a decrease in cavities in children, as a reason to keep adding the fluoride to the water supply. Washington County Health Department Director and Jonesborough water customer Tim Carson urged the board members to keep the fluoridated water in the town’s system, listing cost effectiveness in addition to the preventative benefits the additive has for children, especially those who may not be able to have regular dentist visits.
“The mission of the Department of Health … is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of the people living in this great state,” he said. “You can certainly help us accomplish this mission by doing one of the most cost-effective things you could ever do to help us protect our most vulnerable citizens — our children.”
Fluoride proponents also pointed to data that shows the benefits of added fluoride. Charles Parker, a dentist for the Washington County Health Department, said that while fluoride doesn’t remove the chance of children getting cavities completely, the added fluoride helps keep cavities at bay for children whose parents may not be able to afford to take them to the dentist. The facts add up, Parker continued, to show that added fluoride has more benefits, and that nixing fluoride from the water supply would cause a drastic rise in tooth decay.
“What fluoride has done for (children) is amazing,” Parker said. “I see kids that haven’t brushed their teeth in four or five years, but thanks to fluoride in the water, it’s prevented them a lot of pain.”
Those opposed to fluoride argued that fluoridating community water takes away their choice in drinking water without the additive. Jonesborough resident and water customer Lucas Gutierrez said that in addition to possible health risks, his concern is that added fluoridation takes away a choice that he said should be left up to the individual.
Several speakers against fluoride echoed Gutierrez’s sentiment, some going further to illustrate their concern of the possible health risks of the added fluoride in the water supply. Jonesborough resident Jay Jarman didn’t dispute the benefits fluoride has for teeth, but added that fluoride in the water supply means the public is ingesting the additive and said he failed to see the benefit in that.
“By putting it into your body, it’s not doing your body any good, it’s not doing your teeth any good,” he said.
With public input in the books, the board will continue its discussion on fluoridation at future BMA meetings before reaching a decision.
See also, Jonesborough BMA holds listening session on fluoride in town’s water (WJHL, July 18, 2016).