KALAMA — Mayor Pete Poulsen recommended the city let voters decide on his proposal to remove fluoride from the town’s drinking water.
“I’m hoping that the council will agree to move in this direction,” he told the Kalama City Council Wednesday night. “We’ll take it to the polls, and it will decide its own fate.”
The council did not take a formal vote to put the question to an election. Members seemed inclined to go along with the idea, but the next step remained unclear.
“I’m glad to be relived of the responsibility to make a judgment,” Councilman Dominic Ciancibelli said.
No council member spoke against the suggestion.
The fluoride debate has brought Kalama international attention in recent weeks. Poulsen, explaining his call for an election, said he did not want “to put my council in a position of ridicule.”
The issue brought out about 40 members of the public to Monday’s council meeting.
Kalama resident Jim Kane worried that an election could draw out-of-town lobbyists interested in swaying voters.
Fluoride advocate Lesley Bombardier, a retired Cowlitz County Health and Human Services director, urged the council to decide the matter itself.
She noted that the council is “elected to be knowledgeable and to make the best decision on our behalf.”
Public health agencies have supported adding fluoride to city water supplies as an inexpensive and safe way to reduce tooth decay. The say decades of scientific scrutiny have shown that is safe.
Critics of fluoride don’t generally link it to specific diseases, though two people at Monday’s meeting blame fluoridated water for disrupting their thyroid function. Many opponents also make civil liberties and social fairness arguments, stating, for example, that use of fluoride breaches an individual’s right to informed consent to medication.
“I don’t get any choice whether I have (fluoride) or don’t have it,” said Kane, who recently moved to Kalama. “I’m being forced to take this.”
Michael Falter, a retired dentist who practiced in Kalama, said fluoridated water doesn’t prevent all tooth decay but can lead to “overwhelming improvements.”
“If the community really didn’t care enough to (fluoridate the water), I wouldn’t have come (to Kalama),” Falter said.
Kalama nurse Cheryl Purvis said most of the science she’s seen examining fluoride has focused on tooth decay.
“Many children suffer with all kinds of neurologic issues. … I’m not saying fluoride is related to it, but I do believe that there needs to be more research done.”
She said people can obtain fluoride without exposing the entire population through municipal water supplies.
“If there’s another way to get it, then why are we treating everybody?” Purvis asked.