Citizens Promoting Dental Health turned in nearly 2,200 signatures Thursday to the city clerk’s office in hopes of letting voters decide in the Oct. 2 municipal election whether fluoride should be put back in the city water supply.
The group, comprised of local health professionals and concerned citizens, had until Thursday to collect 1,952 signatures from qualified voters, or 25 percent of the votes cast in the last municipal election, to make it onto the October ballot. The signatures submitted by the group must first be certified by the city clerk for the proposition to make it on the ballot.
“We’ve met our quota,” spokesperson Karen Lawfer said. “We feel confident, and everything is set.”
In November 2006 the Juneau Assembly voted to halt water fluoridation in Juneau after the mayor’s Juneau Fluoride Study Commission was split on the issue 3-3. The city stopped adding fluoride to the water supply in January.
Citizens Promoting Dental Health has the support of the Alaska Dental Association, the Alaska Medical Association and the Alaska Public Health Association.
“The doctors and dentists are very concerned about this because they’re the ones that are going to see the fallout,” Lawfer said.
If the proposition is certified, the group will get together and look at money available to set out a budget and see how it wants to proceed with its campaign, Lawfer said.
“I think the next step is education,” she said. “Education is a very powerful tool and if people understand what fluoride is, the benefits of fluoride and how community water fluoridation has been one of the proven public health measures that prevent tooth decay, then I think people will understand what the proposition is about.”
David Ottoson, a member of the anti-fluoridation group Citizens for Safe Water, disputes that fluoride should be delivered to the masses through the public water supply when there are other means.
“Bottom line, I think that the public water supply is an inappropriate vehicle to distribute what is essentially a medication,” he said. “Fluoride is not a nutrient. There is no recommended daily allowance of fluoride.”
Ottoson said the entire population of Juneau should not be force-fed fluoride through the city water supply, especially when it has been shown that it can adversely affect babies and young children that ingest it. He said the American Dental Association sent out an advisory to members of the association last year saying that infants who are fed with formula using tap water should switch to bottled water to prevent overexposure to fluoride.
Lawfer said Citizens Promoting Dental Health wants to make sure that everyone is informed and voting the best interest of his or her family and community in mind.
“Basically community water fluoridation is the safest, most effective way to promote dental health,” she said. “It’s been studied. It’s been peer-reviewed. And it helps both young and old, rich and poor, whether you have insurance or not, and regardless of your socioeconomic status.”
If the ballot proposition is certified, then Citizens for Safe Water will rely heavily on locals to get its campaign message across, Ottoson said.
“It’s going to be kind of a grass-roots efforts,” he said. “We’ll just try to beat the drum as well as we can with whatever resources we have.”