Fluoride proponents and opponents squared off Monday night in a third and final public hearing on adding the substance to the water supply.
Proponents said fluoride in the water supply is safe and an economical way to fight tooth decay, especially among underprivileged children.
Opponents called it a poison and said fluoride’s health benefits could reach children through medication without putting it in the water everyone drinks.
The Washoe County District Board of Health reviews the matter Dec. 18 and may pass a resolution asking the Washoe County Commission to place the matter on the November ballot next year.
Speaking on behalf of Washoe County School District nurses, Jill Reid called tooth decay in children “the most disturbing health problem that I saw when I arrived here” 13 years ago.
She did not see that much tooth decay in other places where fluoride was in the water.
“I had seen with my own eyes what dentists had told us for 50 years: Fluoride prevents tooth decay,” said Reid, a registered nurse.
Two women said they were allergic to fluoride and putting it in the water would restrict their lifestyles. June Wisniewski of Reno promised a lawsuit if it was put on the ballot.
Proponent Chris Forsch charged that a vocal minority hijacked previous efforts to consider putting fluoride in the water. She wondered what could be more fair than to have a public vote.
Dell Hollenbeak of Reno wondered why fluoridation, if it was so cost effective, wasn’t used in Canada, which has a nationwide public health plan. It’s also been rejected in most of western Europe, Hollenbeak said.
“Don’t put this on the ballot,” he urged.
Dr. Mike Rodolico, executive director of Health Access Washoe County, said the estimated $300,000 annual cost in Washoe County to put fluoride in the water is a quarter of his entire budget but would go a long way towards reducing tooth decay.
“You could give me $5 million and I couldn’t take care of the dental problem in this community,” Rodolico said.