After hearing from both sides of the issue Monday night, the Wilkesboro Town Council voted unanimously to immediately start putting fluoride back in the town’s water supply.
After 15 months without fluoride, Town Manager Ken Noland said last month in a town council work session that the town wasn’t going to return fluoride to the water system.
Noland, Mayor Mike Inscore and other town officials said they heard from people both for and against putting fluoride in the water after articles on the matter were published in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.
After people made it clear that they wished to speak on the issue before the council made its decision, it was added to the agenda for Monday’s meeting to allow this.
“A mistake was made on my behalf by not informing the council sooner, but it slipped my mind and I apologize for it,” Noland said.
He said medical and dental professionals presented him with results of research and scientific data to support fluoridation of the water when they met with him last week.
Noland said he was also approached by citizens who opposed fluoridation, but he said they weren’t able to support their opinions with significant data or scientific evidence.
Inscore said the council was put in a difficult position because it couldn’t please everyone with its decision, but he said those who wanted to speak on the position should get a chance to do so.
Judy Hill, doctor of veterinary medicine, said she opposed fluoridation because it infringes on citizens’ individual liberties.
“Our liberty is the power to choose and the practice of public fluoridation is based on antiquated laws and antiquated research,” Hill said.
Mike Jones, member of Concerned People on Watch Empowers the Republic (CPOWER), said the town came to the right decision by stopping adding fluoride.
“To say that drinking this highly toxic chemical prevents tooth decay is out of a lowgrade horror film,” Jones said.
Jones brought with him a tube of toothpaste (which contains fluoride in it), and read the warning label, which recommends children under the age of two not consuming it for purposes other than tooth brushing.
Jones said the label shows that fluoride is not something that should be ingested.
Mary Shoupe said most European countries do not add fluoride to their water sources and yet their health has not suffered.
“It amazes me that local municipalities buy fluoride to have the dubious privilege of disposing of toxic waste from chemical companies,” Shoupe said.
In addition to community members against the fluoride, several local dentists spoke up advocating for the return of fluoride to the water.
Kristen Miller, dentist at the public health dental clinic read a statement from the clinic’s head dentist, Kate Stanton. She spoke about the kids who they treat at the clinic who struggle to brush their teeth. She said that cavities can be life threatening if not treated.
Miller also said that in her six years of experience, she personally can tell the difference between children who have had systemic fluoride in water and those who have not.
Christopher Roberts, a dentist in North Wilkesboro said he was speaking for all of his patients who are Wilkesboro and Moravian Falls residents (Moravian Falls is serviced by Wilkesboro’s water system), particularly his 3-year old nephew.
Roberts questioned if the matter was a supply issue or activism on the part of Noland. “It’s a shame nobody was told for 15 months,” he said. “We spent 45 minutes changing a zoning district and waiting 15 months to tell the community there is no fluoride in the water was the wrong decision.”
He also said he wants Wilkesboro to be progressive on oral health.
Stephen Wessels, a dentist in Wilkesboro echoed many of Robert’s sentiments. He also brought some facts in, citing that without fluoride, cavities increase by 60 percent in children and 20-40 percent in adults.
Wessels made a metaphor that water being treated with fluoride is the same as salt being treated with iodine or orange juice being treated with vitamin c.
“Community water fluoridation benefits everyone,” he said.
The last person to speak was Deana Billings, executive director for the Wilkes Public Dental Clinic. She brought up the children she sees with abscesses and cavities because they don’t have access to proper dental care.
Billings calculated that if every patient on Medicaid in Wilkes needed to have just one cavity filled, it would cost taxpayers over half a million dollars. She said fluoride can greatly decrease the number of cavities that need to be filled.
Billings also pointed out that fluoride is a naturally occurring element, as it is number nine on the periodic table of elements.
After all of the members of the public who wished to speak got the chance, Councilman Jimmy Hayes made the motion to begin adding fluoride back into the water.
Insocre thanked the public for speaking up.
“It’s a tough decision, but we have been fair and done our due diligence,” he said. “Whatever the outcome is, I think everyone’s voice has been heard.”
The council voted unanimously to put fluoride back into the water supply.
Councilman Russ Ferree said he remembered as a boy seeing other children with blackened teeth, but when fluoride was added to the water, he knew of some whose teeth improved. He said he was voting with his conscience.
Councilman Andrew Soots said it was overall for the betterment of everyone in the community.