Fluoride had its serious backers and passionate opponents at Thursday night’s Olivehurst Public Utility District board meeting, but a decision on whether it’ll continue to be added to the district’s water is still to come.
Before more than an hour of comments, testimony and occasionally heated rhetoric, Chairman James Carpenter said the board, with one member absent, wouldn’t make a decision until all five members were there to discuss the issue.
The lack of an immediate resolution, though, didn’t stop either side from making a case for and against the chemical compound, hailed by some as a major health advance for its reduction of tooth decay and decried by others as a toxin given on a mass scale.
When the fluoride discussion first arose two months ago, board members heard from opponents. So Thursday’s meeting began with a handful of local dentists and others giving their endorsement.
“There’s a wide and diverse group of people who are firmly in favor of it,” said William Lewis, a retired city engineer for Yuba City who oversaw fluoridation beginning there a decade ago. He added the most benefit was seen by younger residents whose teeth are still developing.
Dentists who serve patients said they’ve seen lower tooth decay rates in Yuba City and Olivehurst than in other communities where fluoride isn’t added to the water.
But opponents, most of whom identified themselves as OPUD customers and Plumas Lake residents, said their research into fluoride convinced them the district was doing more harm than good by adding it to the tap water.
“It really comes down to somebody is mass medicating us,” said Josh Bumanglag, one of about three dozen residents who attended the meeting.
The primary advocate for getting rid of fluoride, Justin DeVorss of Plumas Lake, arranged for two scientists to call into the meeting and speak about the compound’s negative health effects. One scientist, formerly of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said he’d describe ongoing fluoridation as a matter of hazardous waste disposal methodology.
Though Carpenter said the meeting was an opportunity for the board to get information and comments, not debate, not everyone seemed to agree. DeVorss at one point directly asked questions of the fluoride proponents, and said Yuba County’s chief health officer, Joe Cassidy, told him fluoride wasn’t helping Cassidy’s family.
But Cassidy said in response, “You have an opinion, and you’re not interested in the truth outside of your preconceived notion.” He added fluoride did benefit his family.
“I’m going to apologize, but I just don’t appreciate people not being honest,” DeVorss said.
Others who spoke suggested the board shouldn’t have decided to put fluoride in the water two years ago without the consent of, or at least providing more information to, the district’s customers.
Board members didn’t say how they’d vote on the issue yet, but at least two, Gary Bradford and Jeff Phinney, said some of what they’d discovered gave them pause.
“We’ve seen this backpedaling in the allowable amount in the water supply, and that concerns me,” Phinney said.
DeVorss said he was encouraged by the members’ willingness to become more informed, though he wasn’t sure how they’ll ultimately vote.
“I’m just hoping the truth will be seen,” he said as he left the meeting.
The board did not say when it would discuss or vote on the issue again.