City officials in Port Orange have more pressing issues to consider than whether fluoride should be added to their water supply.
City council members debated the safety of fluoride at a recent public workshop after a resident raised concerns about adding it to drinking water. The resident and other fluoride skeptics cite health concerns and say fluoridation amounts to medicating residents without their consent.
A few council members suggested the matter should be put to a vote, allowing residents to decide if Port Orange should stop a practice that began in 1983 and has been shown to reduce tooth decay in children and adults.
The director of the Volusia County Health Department urged city officials to keep adding the cavity-fighting chemical to the water supply. “Fluoridated water is safe, effective and cost-effective,” said Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, director of the health department. “For every one dollar spent on water fluoridation, $38 in dental treatment costs are avoided.”
Her views were echoed by the president of the Volusia-Flagler Dentist Association. Jason Larkin, a New Smyrna Beach orthodontist, said he can tell when patients come from Deltona, Edgewater, Lake Helen and Orange City — cities that don’t add fluoride to the water – based on the condition of their teeth. Larkin asked council members why Port Orange was reviving a debate that was raised and put to rest in 2009.
“The question came up,” Mayor Allen Green said. “You’re here to convince us again.”
City officials can find plenty of medical and scientific experts to allay their concerns. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control lists the fluoridation of drinking water as one of the 10 greatest public health advancements in the United States during the past century. No scientific studies have shown that the mineral, which occurs naturally in water, is harmful to the body in the low levels added to drinking water.
Port Orange isn’t the first city to take up this debate. In Ormond Beach, Commissioner Troy Kent has questioned the need for fluoride in the city’s water after manufacturers failed to respond to him about the safety and effectiveness of the product. He wants the city to adopt a water additive accountability ordinance to require companies to vouch for the chemicals that are added to the water supply. The debate led Ormond Beach commissioners to consider scheduling a referendum last year to ask residents to decide on fluoridation – 55 years after city voters approved its use. Commissioners ultimately decided the $45,000 cost for the referendum wasn’t worth it.
In Pinellas County, opponents convinced the County Commission to remove fluoride from the water supply in 2011. A year later, the board reversed itself after fluoride became an election issue and two commissioners, who had opposed it, lost their seats, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Citizens have the right to question elected officials on matters in the public interest. But some opponents in Pinellas claimed fluoride was part of a government plot to medicate the public into submission or part of a Nazi scheme to kill undesirables, the Tampa Bay Times reported. That’s not sound science.
It isn’t clear what Port Orange officials will do next. Another meeting on the fluoride issue hasn’t been set. As Councilman Bob Ford said, “Personally, I think the city has so many more concerns that we can deal with.”
We agree. City officials should weigh carefully the benefits of removing fluoride from the water supply. Port Orange residents could pay the price in dental work and their dental health.