College Green

Exploring environmental news in Southeast Ohio

Visitors and residents of Athens express concerns about water fluoridation

Posted by collegegreenou on October 15, 2009

From CG News research

Athens residents and visiting advocates expressed grave concerns about the ongoing issue of water fluoridation at the city’s first public forum on the topic held in Athens’ City Building Oct 14.

The talk, hosted by city council and attended by about 20 community members, was meant to provide citizens with a greater understanding of the economic costs and potential health risks of adding fluoride, a chemical used to prevent tooth decay, to the city’s tap water, Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney said.

“The cost [to fluoridate] has doubled and we are under tight budget constraints,” Gosney said. “Recent scientific research showing the potential risks of fluoridation, particularly the 2006 National Research Council study, also inspired me [to explore the issue].”

Water fluoridation has been a hotly debated issue among Athens citizens for decades. Citizens voted against water fluoridation proposals in 1963, 1966 and 1970 before city council passed a resolution to begin water fluoridation in 1997. Athens began fluoridating in 2002.

Gosney said he wanted the forum to be a debate between fluoridation supporter Colleen Wulf of the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Oral Health Services and Paul Connet, an outspoken anti-fluoridation advocate and director of the Fluoride Action Network.

Wulf declined Gosney’s invitation on the grounds that such forums can mislead citizens. In an email to Gosney, Wulf wrote that public fluoridation forums allow “the vocal minority [of] a forum to spread misinformation and fear” and give anti-fluoridation advocates “undeserved credibility.”

Wulf could not be reached for further comment.

At the forum, Connet challenged the claims of some public health officials that fluoride reduces cavities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association all support the fluoridation of municipal water supplies.

“The people that run these organizations don’t read the scientific literature and defend fluoridation like a religious belief,” Connet said. “I want them to show me the science …”

Connet said fluoridation is no longer needed because most toothpaste now contains fluoride. He also said that fluoridation chemicals are dangerous because they are derived from industrial processes used to make phosphate-based fertilizer.

Most of the forum’s attendees were strongly opposed to fluoridation. Athens resident Jim Murrey said he is concerned that the dosage of fluoride in water cannot be regulated.

“We’re drugging an entire population and the chemicals used for fluoridation are toxic waste,” Murrey said.

Gosney said he hopes the forum will spark public interest about fluoridation. Although Gosney said he would like to address the issue further, city council will not take up the issue until Athens receives input from citizens and the department of health.

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