There’s nothing in the water here, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
Springfield will remain the largest city in Ohio without fluoride in its water after the failure of Issue 8 in Tuesday’s election.
City residents voted against adding fluoride to the city’s water supply by 57 to 43 percent. There were 8,747 ballots cast against fluoridation, compared to 6,487 in favor, according to final, unofficial results.
“I can’t even tell you how happy we are to have pure, clean water to drink,” said Deborah Catrow, spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens Against Fluoride.
In the 1970s voters rejected a ballot measure that would have fluoridated Springfield’s water. At the time 29 other Ohio cities took the same step, but six have since reversed that position.
In order to change the referendum results, Springfield’s charter mandates the issue return to the voters. So fluoride advocates gathered almost 800 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
During the campaign fluoride opponents said the chemical provided little protection for teeth while harming other parts of the body.
Children suffering from tooth decay need treatment from dentists, not fluoride, Catrow said.
Advocates for fluoridated water said the chemical would help prevent tooth decay, particularly among low-income children who suffer from inadequate dentistry and nutrition. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 35 percent of Clark County children endure untreated cavities, compared to 24 percent in the rest of the state.
Fluoride helps prevent cavities by making teeth more resistant to acid, said dentist Gene Clifton, a spokesman for Citizens Together for Good Health. But it’s difficult to win an argument when knowledge is pitted against fear, he said.
“We had a great belief in the intellectual ability of people to conceive that, and we were not quite right,” Clifton said.
Other ballot issues, such as the Springfield City Schools levy and hospital accountability commission, might have hurt their issue, Clifton said. The levy and hospital issues both failed, and voters might have automatically voted “no” on the fluoride issue as well.
Catrow said she had expected the school levy to hurt anti-fluoridation efforts because the school district appeared to favor fluoridation, but that concern did not materialize at the polls.
She credited the campaign’s success with committee members’ willingness to read research, go door-to-door and attend a speech given here by national fluoride opponent Paul Connett, a chemistry professor at St. Lawrence University.
Without fluoride, the city’s water will continue to be an asset, Catrow said.
Clifton disagreed, pointing out that 80 percent of the United States practices fluoridation.
“We’ll continue to be a backwater as long as we keep doing these kinds of things,” Clifton said.