MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — In a debate of societal benefits versus medical freedom, Union County commissioners took the next step Monday night in removing fluoride from a portion of the county’s drinking water.
The board was split with a 3-2 vote to remove the chemical, with Commissioner Richard Helms and Chair J.R. Rowell opposing.
The removal would take place at the newly constructed Yadkin River Water Treatment Plant. Therefore, it would only impact about a third of county residents, since the rest of the water comes from the Catawba River. Lancaster County manages that plant.
Commissioner Brian Helms said his decision came to forcing medication onto residents.
“Fluoride has been in our water for well over 50 years,” he said. “I don’t believe that makes it right. The decision before us, isn’t whether fluoride is good or bad. … The decision is if Union County Board has the authority to forcible medicate its residents without consent. Nobody on this board is a licensed health professional. None of us has legal authority.”
Many dental professionals did show up to speak on the topic, both from Union County and across the state.
Many pediatric dentists and a member of the faculty at the East Carolina dental school argued that removing the fluoride would impact poorer families in the area, since they have a higher chance of not having insurance for dental visits.
“It will have astronomic financial results on taxpayer,” a dentist said, referring to families on Medicaid.
Another dentist from Ashe County – which lacks fluoride in water — wanted to separate fact from fiction.
“There is a big difference,” he said. “There’s a difference between refereed science and what you can find when you Google. The refereed science is pretty clear to me. It works for children, adolescents, adults, the geriatrics. It helps everyone.”
There were several residents who sided with the majority of the commissioners, one even calling the fluoride “immoral.”
“We add a lot of chemicals to water to treat our water,” Commissioner David Williams said. “This is one chemical not meant to treat water, meant to treat us. I support this ordinance.”
Richard Helms made a motion to table the discussion for a later date, but it was deemed that there had already been too much previous talks on the subject to kick it farther down the road.
County Manager Brian Matthews explained that since the vote wasn’t unanimous, there will have to be a second reading on the decision Feb. 19. Then, any kind of majority “yes” would put the ordinance amendment into effect.