Fluoride survey hits the streets

Port Orchard residents are getting a chance to speak up about their water, and its additives.

An advisory ballot has gone out asking residents if the city should include fluoride in city water supply. The ballot is included in March water utility bills.  It was also distributed in February.

The informal ballot asks residents if they are in favor or not in favor of the city adding fluoride to the water supply. Much like an election ballot, the survey includes a statement against fluoridation and a statement in favor of the process.

Just what the city will do with the results of the survey isn’t set in stone, said council member Rob Putaansuu, the chair of the utilities committee.

“The survey is to find out what the citizens want,” Putaansuu said. “If overwhelmingly the city doesn’t support fluoridation, we have to listen to that. It’s the residents’ system.”

City residents near downtown currently receive fluoridated water, while other areas such as Manchester are tied into the Bremerton water system and get water without fluoride.

The issue first came in front of the Port Orchard City Council in August, when a husband and wife, Elissa and Nick Whittleton of Port Orchard, presented members of the utility committee concerns about fluoridated water.

The couple argued that fluoride benefits teeth through topical application only, not ingestion, and that frequent ingestion can pose health risks, including dental fluorosis, a developmental disturbance in teeth caused by excessive exposure to fluoride.

The couple also argued water fluoridation was forcing medicine to individuals who may not seek it out.

“Is this not leaning towards mass medicating … regardless of the wishes of some, even if they are in the minority?” the couple asked in a letter sent to utility committee members in August.

The statement against fluoridation in the survey, written by the Whittletons, was strongly worded.

In 1999, a citizen group in Bremerton successfully stopped the inclusion of fluoride in the city’s drinking water supply.

“The FDA classes it as a drug, EPA a contaminant, DOT a poison. CDC warns infant formula must not be mixed with fluoridated water and dental fluorosis is on the rise in 30 percent of U.S. children,” the statement claims.

The American Dental Association and Washington State Dental Association support optimal fluoridation for water systems.

Dr. Bruce L Yoder, a dentist who practices near Cedar Heights Junior High School, told the Independent in September that he can see the difference between teeth of clients who get water with fluoride and those who don’t.

“There’s a distinct difference,” he said. “There’s more cavities in children from communities with non-fluoridated water.”

Yoder wrote the statement in favor for the informal ballot. He claimed that repeated national studies showed water fluoridation reduced tooth decay by 18 to 40 percent.

“It would be disappointing to see such an inexpensive and highly effective program taken away from the community,” he wrote in the survey.

Putaansuu said results of the survey would be available as the March and February bills come back in. The votes would be tallied and discussed at a utility committee meeting.

Personally, he said, he would like to see fluoridation stay in place.

“The people we’d be hurting are the children of the poor that don’t typically go to the dentist,” he said.

But since it’s a community water system, Putaansuu said the city would look long and hard at its practices.

“We have to listen to everybody on this,” he said. “It’s a big issue.”


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