MANSFIELD — Fifty years after attempts were made to add flouride to Mansfield’s water supply, the city remains one of the two largest Ohio cities with no fluoridation program.
Springfield is the other.
Some city officials want to join the ranks of the fluoridated to protect the teeth of future generations.
Before anything can happen, city Councilman Dave Robinson said Thursday, council will have to figure out what steps the city must go through given that Mansfield voters turned down fluoridation by a vote of 3,192 to 1,829 in 1970.
Robinson and others believe that after decades of health studies and countless TV ads touting fluoride-added toothpaste, Mansfield residents are more likely to see the benefits now.
City Law Director Dave Remy has been asked to research whether council can start to fluoridation or must put a second referendum on the ballot.
“Since it had been voted on at one time, we’re having to tread carefully,” Robinson said.
Dr. Anna Jose, chief dental officer at Third Street Family Health Services, which serves many low-income families, said she sees many children with multiple cavities, often starting with baby teeth.
Jose said whenever she sees a youngster without cavities, she asks where they live. “Nine times out of 10, they did not grow up in Mansfield.”
The dentist said she’d support city fluoridation. It would help prevent cavities “starting the day it is put in,” for children younger than 12 and for future children whose mothers drink tap water, she said.
Many young patients seen at the clinic are given multivitamins containing fluoride. But it’s tough to get them to take those regularly, especially if they don’t like the taste, Jose said.
Theresa Arnett, registered dental hygienist at the clinic, also would like to see the city reverse itself on fluoridation. Children from communities with fluoridated water have 29 percent less tooth decay, she said.
“If I could have everyone on City Council follow us around for one day, they’d say ‘Yes, we need fluoride,'” she said.
Robinson told city officials in May he thinks it’s time to put fluoridation back on the table. “With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, I don’t think it’s the Red Menace it once was.”
Mayor Lydia Reid has asked water treatment officials to give her updated costs for a fluoridation program.
Angelo Klousiadis, city manager in charge of the water treatment plant, said that in the late 1990s, it would have cost about $10,000 annually for chemicals and $100,000 for initial equipment costs.
Mansfield/Ontario/Richland County Health Commissioner Stan Saalman said he’d support fluoridation in Mansfield.
Health officials and other community members attempted to get the issue on the ballot again several years ago, but didn’t gather enough signatures for a referendum, Saalman said.
Saalman suggested the city look into whether the state had grants available for the purchase of fluoridation equipment.
Ginger White, 32, of Foster Street, was eager to give her opinion Thursday while getting treatment at Third Street Family Health Services’ dental clinic.
“I’d be behind it 100 percent,” she said.
She has friends whose children “don’t eat a lot of sweets and don’t drink a lot of pop, but they’re getting several cavities,” she said. White said she lived for a time in an Arkansas community with fluoridation and children living there didn’t seem to have as many dental problems.
Another patient, Betty Davison, 58, of Home Avenue, was more cautious. She quizzed Third Street clinic officials about exactly what fluoride was, and its health effects.
“Fluoride is a form of bleach, right? Does fluoride cause cancer or anything like that?”
“It sounds like a good idea, as long as it wouldn’t hurt you,” she said warily, after listening. “I, for one, like to drink my eight glasses a day. I wouldn’t want anything that harms you.”
In 1952, Mansfield Mayor Thomas B. Wright and area dentists backed fluoridation as a way to strengthen children’s teeth and prevent tooth decay.
In 1970, a group called the Mansfield Safe Water Committee lobbied against fluoridation, saying the chemical, which appears in some industrial waste, was potentially harmful and accumulates in people’s bodies.
If council decides to move forward on fluoridation, residents may still hear widely conflicting opinions on fluoridation.
The World Health Organization called fluoridation one of the 10 greatest health advances of the 20th century, and the American Dental Association endorses adding fluoride to public water systems.
However, opposition remains active through groups such as Citizens for Safe Drinking Water in Mountain View California. That group cites statements like one made by Dr. Charles Gordon Heyd, past president of the American Medical Association, who said he believed fluoride was a corrosive poison that would cause serious long-range effects.
Governments of some European countries, including Sweden, have opted not to fluoridate.