Fluoride will remain in Martinsville’s drinking water. At least for now.
At Tuesday night’s Martinsville City Council meeting, a motion by Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge and seconded by Councilwoman Jennifer Bowles to remove fluoride from the city’s water supply was defeated 3-2.
The vote came after the council in recent months heard from opponents of water fluoridation, some of whom have launched a campaign to educate residents about what they believe are potential health hazards of fluoride.
Hodge and Bowles both said they think it is morally wrong for the city to force fluoridated water on people who may not want to drink it. Councilmen Gene Teague and Mark Stroud indicated, however, that they believe the benefits for dental health outweigh any risks, and they voted against the motion, as did Mayor Danny Turner.
Localities nationwide have put fluoride, which is derived from the element fluorine, in their drinking water since the 1940s to help prevent tooth decay and other dental problems among residents. Martinsville has fluoridated its water since the 1960s, spending about $15,000 a year to do so.
Health officials generally agree that fluoride in drinking water is safe if it does not exceed a certain level. The city’s level now is 0.7 milligrams per liter, the level that the U.S. Public Health Service recommends not exceeding.
Yet studies have shown that exposure to too much fluoride could result in dental and health problems such as white spots on teeth, thyroid conditions, hyperactivity and brain disorders.
The American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other prominent medical organizations encourage water fluoridation.
Teague said that no major medical organization has taken a stand against fluoridated water.
Stroud, a former paramedic, said he has seen a lot of official death reports over the years and “I never saw that anyone died from ingesting city water.”
Without fluoride being in the water, impoverished people might not be able to get it, Teague said, because they cannot afford other sources of fluoride, such as mouth washes and fluoride treatments at dentist offices.
Bowles, who previously indicated she would not be supportive of removing fluoride from city water, said she has since changed her mind as she has thought about the issue and heard opinions from residents.
People with whom she has talked “did not want the city forcing them” to consume fluoride, Bowles said. She suggested that the city instead reallocate the $15,000 it spends on fluoride yearly to the Piedmont Virginia Dental Health Foundation instead. The foundation’s clinic in uptown Martinsville serves financially-strapped patients.
“It’s wrong for the government to force anyone to ingest a chemical” without their consent, Hodge said. Bowles made a similar comment.
At least eight water fluoridation opponents were in the audience at the council meeting. Two spoke after the vote during time that the council allots at each regular meeting for public comments.
City resident Tom Marshall said he thinks not everything about health effects of fluoride is getting heard by the public.
Joey Martin, who also lives in the city, said he hopes Martinsville eventually will be “a healthier city, and a city that respects” people’s right to choose what they want to put in their bodies.
Hodge told the opponents that they can continue to educate people about potential dangers of fluoride and maybe make another pitch to the council in the future when it perhaps is comprised of different members.
City Attorney Eric Monday said that any vote that fails can be reconsidered by the council at any time in the future.
“The discussion is far from over,” Martin predicted.
Martinsville City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to keep fluoride in the city’s drinking water.
A motion by Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge and seconded by Councilwoman Jennifer Bowles to remove fluoride from the city’s water supply was defeated.
The vote came after the council in recent months heard from opponents of water fluoridation, some of whom have launched a campaign to educate area residents about what they believe are potential hazards of fluoride.
Hodge and Bowles both said they think it is morally wrong for the city to force fluoridated water on people who may not want to drink it. Councilmen Gene Teague and Mark Stroud indicated, however, they think the potential benefits outweigh any health risks. Mayor Danny Turner joined the councilmen in their vote of support.