Algonac’s recent decision to re-think the practice of fluoridating city water has spurred some healthy debate on both sides of the issue.
City Manager Patrick Burelle was quick to point out that no action has been taken by the council as of yet.
“We’re just doing some review now; it is just a bullet point,” he said. “It has not been and it will not be on the (upcoming) meeting agenda.”
Burelle said he brought it to council May 19 because one of the residents recently questioned him about the issue, which was discussed at a public meeting earlier this month. Citizens are free to speak on the topic at city meetings, during the time allotted for public comment, he said. The meetings are the first and third Tuesday of every month, at the Algonac City Hall.
“Or they can feel free to stop by the office or write us,” he said. “One man dropped off a whole packet of materials.”
Rev. Lowell Byrd lived in Tennessee for many years before moving to Algonac seven years ago. Like many others, he has some strong opinions on the subject of fluoridation.
“I have been dead set against fluoride in drinking water for over 50 years,” he said.
“After living in the Alcoa area for many years, I learned of their aluminum waste products being forced on the American public by (the pharmaceutical companies) and the dental practitioners nationwide in order to ‘sell’ the waste products created in making aluminum.”
He believes the additive causes a slow-acting, harmful effect over many years of consumption.
He added that the $14,000 saved by discontinuing the addition of fluoride “can be a substantial savings to our fair city in these economic-pressured times.”
Brown said there is an abundance of information on fluoridation, for and against, on the internet, such as www.fluoridedebate.com/question01. Some sites state that too much fluoride can cause browning on the teeth or white spots, he said.
Fluoride treatment levels are kept to a very small percentage, otherwise the substance can be harmful to humans. The ratio at the Algonac plant is one part to a million parts of water.
Algonac water plant operator Richard L. Poole said, “It’s closely monitored. We test it twice as much as it needs to be done. We’ve never had an overfeed problem. Our pump is incapable of feeding too much fluoride.”
Helen Morrow, 92, is a strong supporter of municipal water fluoridation and remembers when it was first added to Algonac’s water supply.
Morrow, a school nurse for 33 years in Algonac schools, said she was working at the elementary school at the time.
“I saw the results over the years while we were given the dental fluoride in Algonac water,” she said. “We had some children getting well water and we could see the results of the teeth that weren’t getting the help from the Algonac system. I would hate to see us go back to poor dental health without fluoride.”
Mayor Jim Wisdom said he has been getting calls on both sides of the issue.
“A friend of mine sees it as pouring poison into the water,” he said. “But then I asked a pharmacist at Kroger and she told me young kids need minute quantities of fluoride.”
Wisdom said he was always in favor of treating the water in the past. Though he admits he is not qualified to give an educated opinion, he has his own views on the issue.
“Toothpaste didn’t originally have fluoride in it and I had the cavities to prove it,” he said. “As time went on, I remember went it came out in toothpaste years ago. The probability is that you’re getting it another way (besides the water).”
Morrow, who retired from the school district in 1977, is worried that without the benefit of fluoride in the drinking water, not all parents will be vigilant about keeping up their family’s dental hygiene.
“I would hate like the dickens to hinder the children and find out people with depressed situations weren’t going to go to the dentist or use toothpaste for fluoride in some way,” she said. “Will all the parents care about such things?”
Officials were still investigating whether the practice is a state mandate and also, whether fluoridation was initiated by the vote of the people.
Morrow says there was no vote.
“Algonac had fluoride before anyone, long before the laws were put on the books,” she said. “They found it to be advantageous-it was a big deal. Algonac went ahead and put fluoride in the water without a vote. I recall one man from the health department from Port Huron coming out to visit. He said (jokingly), ‘I’m going to be drinking a lot of the water here, because we don’t have it in Port Huron'”
Burelle said he wasn’t anti-fluoride, but just isn’t convinced putting it in the water is the best way to do it.
Besides, he said, “There’s not a lot of hardcore evidence as to how effective fluoride is.