I am not normally a fence-sitter, but until last week I was straddling the barbed wire on the fluoridation issue, and it was getting mighty uncomfortable. With an 18-month-old daughter at home, my wife and I have debated the volatile issue many times. Most discussions ended with the two of us more confused than ever about which way to vote.

Then late last week, two things changed my mind. The first was a conversation with Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. While wolfing down some orange juice and coffee cake at the home of a local labor union official, Nader didn’t hesitate hen asked about the local fluoride referendum.

“It is ridiculous to fluoridate an entire water system,” Nader stated flatly. “Fluoride in a water system can kill people undergoing kidney dialysis. Why take the risk of killing someone when the goal is to stop cavities in kids?”

The man who forced the auto industry to put seat belts in cars then offered an alternative: Fluoride treatments at schools. “You hit your target instead of every person in the city.”

That’s exactly what my wife and I do at home: daily drops of fluoride – prescribed by our pediatrician – are willingly consumed by our beautiful Maggie.

While Nader’s comments had a powerful impact on my wife and me, it wasn’t until the next day that I was swayed permanently to vote against fluoridation. (My wife, a public health professional, will likely vote for fluoridation.)

It was the Friday, Oct. 20, front page of the San Antonio Express-News that changed my mind. Above the fold, a headline read: Fluoride gets some teeth.” The story went on to explain that Metro Alliance and COPS had thrown their support behind the measure.

Below the fold, in the bottom left-hand corner, was a different story about the same subject: Government, chemicals, and water. The headline read: “Correction or coincidence?” After reading the brilliantly reported story, there is simply no way that I can trust government officials to add chemicals to our water supply. The Air Force appears to have poisoned its own workers and a large part of our city. Why should the citizens of San Antonio trust the politicians at City Hall or the officials at San Antonio Water Systems with something so integral to life as our water supply? I have already voted “no,” and hope the measure fails. Meanwhile, my wife and I continue to rely on our pediatrician and our daughter’s fluoride. Why can’t everyone else do the same?