Mt. Pleasant city commissioners voted 4-2 Monday to reduce the amount of fluoride added to city water.
Commissioners also voted to appoint Planning Commissioner Nancy English to fill a vacancy on the city commission.
The fluoride vote came in response to a recommendation from a task force that concluded that “artificial fluoridation of the city’s water system represents an unnecessary risk to at least of the subgroups within our population,” according to the task force’s report.
“It is unnecessary because topical fluoride protection is readily available at relatively low cost through fluoridated toothpaste,” the report continued. “It is also available through oral rinses, which are relatively inexpensive, and through treatment at dental offices.”
The move came despite objections from the Michigan Dental Association and the Michigan Department of Community Health, which calls adding low levels of fluoride to public water supplies a “safe, cost-effective public health measure,” according to Susan Dewey, the Department of Community Health’s fluoridation coordinator.
The five-member task force was established in 2008, and concluded that adding fluoride to city water did relatively little to fight tooth decay, posed some health risks and raised legal and ethical questions.
In 1997, voters supported adding fluoride. In 2004, fluoride was removed after a campaign labeled as misleading by opponents. Voters put it back in 2005.
Task force chairwoman Kathy Ling, also a city commissioner, said reducing the amount of fluoride added to water was permitted by the wording of the 2005 ballot issue, which permitted review and changing the level of fluoride, she said.
“The task force has no intention of ignoring the will of the people in the 2005 election,” she said. “This is a temporary recommendation.”
She said task force members looked closely at two events that took place after 2005: an American Dental Association recommendation that baby formula not be mixed with fluoridated water, as well as a report from the National Research Council for the Environmental Protection Agency that raised questions about health risks to children, diabetics, people with poor kidney function, or people such as athletes who drink a lot of water.
Both reports were issued in 2006.
“That seemed to be a strong red flag,” Ling said.
“I didn’t see data that supported that having fluoride didn’t cause harm,” said task force member Sharyl Majorski.
“Fluoride is a dangerous drug,” said task force member Jeanne Pfeiffer, a registered nurse. “It’s put in there to drug the people. The best way to get fluoride is to put it topically on your teeth.”
Carol Hanba, a dental hygienist and oral health coordinator for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, said removing fluoride would harm people, especially children, who are exposed to high levels of sweets and little other opportunity to get fluoride to fight decaying teeth.
“They’re still going to get Gatorade in their bottles,” Hanba said. “This is a lifeline to counteract that.”
Task force member Larry Collins said he did not support reducing the amount of fluoride. The former city manager said the city should take no action unless or until the EPA took action.
Mayor Jim Holton and commissioners Sharon Tilmann, David McGuire and Ling voted in favor of the reduction; Vice Mayor Bruce Kilmer and Commissioner Jon Joslin voted no.
City Manager Kathie Grinzinger said the reduction would take place fairly quickly, but the exact details and the exact level to which it would be reduced still has to be decided.
About 0.4 parts per million of fluoride occurs natural in Mt. Pleasant water; enough sodium fluoride has been added to raise the level to 0.7 ppm…