PORT ANGELES — It was study vs. study last week at a forum where opposing panelists presented familiar arguments and copious information in preparation for a Nov. 6 advisory survey on city water fluoridation.
More than 100 onlookers overflowed City Council chambers Thursday to hear panelists alternately express confidence and criticism of fluoridating water that’s used for drinking and bathing by 10,000 city customers, including 1,500 east of Port Angeles in the Clallam County Public Utility District.
Mayor Dan Di Guilio joined his council colleagues to watch the proceedings in seats normally designated for city staff.
Council members are preparing to decide whether fluoridation should continue beyond May 18, when the city’s 10-year obligation to fluoridate water expires.
“A lot of that information has been provided to us over the last several months,” Di Guilio said Friday, recalling that pro- and anti-fluoridation speakers make regular appearances for City Council public comment sessions.
“I thought both sides provided a lot of information that I thought was very interesting.”
Di Guilio said the forum, which will be followed by a public comment session at 6 p.m. this Thursday at the same location, “will weigh heavily in my decision, that’s for sure.”
The following week, on Nov. 6, surveys with postage-paid return envelopes will be mailed to city water users.
Completed surveys must be delivered to City Hall at 321 E. Fifth St. or postmarked by Nov. 27.
The public-comment meeting Thursday will be preceded by an anti-fluoridation rally at 1 p.m. at The Gateway transit center at Front and Lincoln streets.
While Di Guilio said much of the information he heard Thursday was familiar, he added that the assertion that fluoridation could cause brain damage was new.
“The pro-fluoride folks countered very well,” Di Guilio added.
“If I had to grade [the forum], I’d call it a draw.”
The pro-fluoridation committee was composed of Chairman Dr. Thomas Locke, Dr. Bri Butler, Dr. Todd Irwin and Dr. Madeleine Harrington.
The anti-fluoridation committee consisted of committee Chairwoman Dr. Eloise Kailin, college-level health teacher Stephanie Noblin, naturopathic physician Crystal Tack and Dr. Bill Osmunson, a dentist now practicing in Neah Bay who has spoken against fluoridation nationally.
Osmunson, who led most of the discussion for the anti-fluoridation side, said the results of 45 human studies and more than 100 animal studies prove that fluoride ingestion — including from fluoridation — is damaging.
The anti-fluoridation presentation featured the film “Our Daily Dose” (www.ourdailydosefilm.com).
Osmunson, a board member of the worldwide anti-fluoride group Fluoride Action Network, said studies have shown that a lowering of eight to 10 IQ points among children who ingest fluoride “is not uncommon” and that fluoride proponents fail to look at total exposure from all sources, including food.
He repeatedly invoked the do-not-swallow warning on toothpaste, saying the Food and Drug Administration would not have put it there if fluoride was not damaging.
Locke, Clallam County’s deputy health officer, cited more than 3,000 peer-reviewed studies over the past several decades that have proven fluoridation’s efficacy and called the IQ claim “the first of many misstatements of fact” that the audience would hear.
He said the problem is that some children like to swallow toothpaste, not that fluoride is inherently bad.
“What that is about is trying to minimize the ingestion of excess fluoride in those first eight years of life,” he said.
When water fluoridation is introduced into a community, it results in a double-digit decrease in cavities, Locke said.
He added that studies showing negative effects have been in communities where the fluoride ingested is far above the 0.7 parts per million of fluorosilicic acid that is added to the city’s water system.
The first major study of fluoridation — which was in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945 — showed a 65 percent reduction in tooth decay that resulted from community fluoridation, Locke said.
He added that severe fluorosis characterized by brown teeth is seen in communities with naturally high levels of fluoride in the water.
Osmunson, saying the effects of fluoridation are cumulative, called the 3,000 studies “really poor quality” and also pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that nursing mothers not drink fluoridated water.
“Why do you doctors think you know more than mother’s milk?” he said.
Kailin said it was wrong for the city to fluoridate the water system without the consent of citizens.
“The city is doing what no physician ethically can do,” she said.
But Butler said that between 2005 and 2010 — fluoridation began in Port Angeles in 2006 — cavities decreased 20 percent.
“There’s still more work to do,” she said.
“Getting rid of water fluoridation will only make the fight harder for us all.”
Tack said the existence of fluoridated water is already compromising people’s health.
It stiffens joints in the elderly, increases the chances of fluorosis when consumed by infants and contributes to hypothyroidism, she said.
“At this time, the facts are becoming clearer to a growing number of people that fluoride is not safe,” she said.
“As with Agent Orange and cigarettes, for a period of time, only a few people blew the whistle.
“Now we know that was an abuse of science, authority and trust.”
A video of the forum was to be available this weekend on YouTube produced by Clallam Public Eye and on www.PAPAonline.tv.