When an idea earns acclaim as one of the 10 greatest achievements of its time and is subsequently endorsed by legions of professionals and confirmed by one study after another, the general public can scarcely contain its enthusiasm for said idea, right?
Well, no, apparently not. The city of Sheridan’s attempt to fluoridate the municipal water supply is being stonewalled by Clean Water Sheridan, a determined group of holdouts who base their claim on a vote held more than half a century ago.
It pains us to have to rebut the utter fiction that Clean Water Sheridan espouses. Because we must, however, we will start with the notion that fluoride poisons drinking water. Then we will address the specific case of Sheridan.
The very name of the group insinuates that adding fluoride makes water unclean, which is an absolutely baseless assertion. This renewed push for fluoridation in Sheridan reopens the annals of Cold War history and hysteria. In the decades since the absurd alarmism of the Red Scare and the John Birch Society, the anti-fluoride conspiracies have become no less outlandish.
In certain quarters, fluoridation is viewed with deep-rooted suspicion. It is even paired with the similarly disproved allegations of “chemtrails” to feed the fantasy that the government is deviously plotting to poison the citizenry.
We could understand the susceptibility to such quackery if we lived in an unscientific society with no understanding of the realities of public health. But in a country that has an unmatched infrastructure for providing sound medical information from coast to coast, fluoridation should need no defender. Its benefits ought to speak for themselves.
Fluoride is an ion of fluorine. In its elemental form, fluorine is indeed highly toxic. Soluble fluorides have some toxicity as well. Yet in appropriate doses, fluoride strengthens teeth and wards off tooth decay in human beings. That’s why fluoride is added to toothpaste.
The widespread introduction of fluoridated water beginning in the late 1940s is now hailed as one of the 10 greatest health achievements of the 20th century.
Among the great contradictions in medicine is the fact that a substance can be both poisonous and beneficial. Some toxins that are potent enough to kill are also potent enough to heal. The difference is in the dosage. When administered by qualified professionals, the proper dose of an otherwise terrible poison can seemingly work miracles.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the world, and it can prove a major hindrance to childhood development. Youngsters who spend schooldays suffering through the pain of cavities and dental abscesses are hardly in optimal physical condition to learn and succeed in the classroom. For a minuscule cost, fluoridation offers families of all social and economic circumstances the gift of healthy teeth.
Sheridan started fluoridating its water in 1950, making it one of the first cities in the country to do so. But in 1953, a referendum was held, and voters said no to fluoridation by a ratio of almost 3-to-1, to the detriment of their own teeth. After abandoning its fluoridation program following that election, Sheridan now wants to revive it.
The city says the 1953 ballot measure was merely an advisory vote that did not obligate Sheridan to end fluoridation. Clean Water Sheridan doesn’t see it that way.
Even if that position has merit, we think that an election result from the time of the Eisenhower administration has been rendered obsolete. The voters in that distant election were the voice of 1953 Sheridan, not 2014 Sheridan. Times and circumstances have changed.
Clean Water Sheridan has dropped its plans to sue, opting for a signature drive instead. “We’re treading water right now,” group member Erin Adams said.
What an apt choice of expressions. We hope this idea is sunk, never to resurface again.