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Forum Weighs Pros, Cons of Water Fluoridation
CERENA JOHNSON, The Eureka Reporter
Article Launched: 01/23/08, 05:57 PM PDT

The question of whether to fluoridate Manila’s water supply was a hot topic of debate at the Manila Community Center Tuesday.

Measure B, before Manila voters on Feb. 5, is an advisory measure that asks voters whether they would like the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District to add fluoride to their water if the district decides to implement fluoridation.

The forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, sought to inform the public of the pros and cons of community water fluoridation.

Speaking in support of the measure was Supervisor John Woolley and Steven Schonfeld, a periodontist. Brian Smith, a general/preventative dentist, and Mike Rademaker, who has worked as a research scientist and as an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consultant, spoke in opposition to the measure.

Members of the audience were able to submit their questions on fluoride to the panel, which included everything from questions about the safety and regulation of fluoride to ethics, alternatives and dental hygiene education.

Each side was given equal amounts of time in which to respond.

One of first questions was about the history of water fluoridation.

Fluoride occurs naturally in most water.

According to the National Cancer Institute, in the 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived where fluoride occurred naturally in drinking levels of approximately one part fluoride per million parts of water had fewer dental caries, or damage to the structure of the teeth, which includes cavities and tooth decay.

Grand Rapids, Mich. was the first U.S. city to implement water fluoridation in 1945.

In Humboldt County, the cities of Arcata and Eureka fluoridate their water.

Both Woolley and Rademaker agreed no determination has been made on legal basis of the fluoridation of water.

Woolley and Schonfeld said water fluoridation would be beneficial.

“It really comes down to the community being able to make the choice,” Woolley said.

Woolley said adding fluoride to water would be cost-effective, especially during a time when necessary social services are being cut.

The Centers for Disease Control lists water fluoridation among its top 10 public health accomplishments, Schonfeld said.

Among the agencies that advocate water fluoridation are the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, he said.

“It is supported by many, many people,” he said.

Rademaker said new evidence is emerging indicating that fluoride is not safe, which may
be a reflection of a paradigm shift, citing studies the Academy of Sciences, an EPA coalition and the journals Neurotoxicology and Environmental Health Perspectives.

Smith said the ADA does not recommend children ages zero to one drink fluoridated water or ingest it through baby formula due to an increased risk of fluorosis, a tooth defect that affects the appearance of teeth.

In 1999, the CDC said fluoride is most effective when used topically, he said.

Rademaker noted studies displaying the affects of fluoride on IQ, bone fractures and the accumulation of fluoride within areas of the body over time, including the pineal gland, a producer of melatonin located in the brain.

“You really need to have an adequate margin of safety,” Rademaker said, when considering people’s varying sensitivities to fluoride and determining its level of safety.

Schonfeld discredited several of the studies.

“Scientists reach conclusions by weighing all of the evidence,” he said.

“Fluoride helps to prevent cavities. It does not cause harm.”

The one thing both dentists appeared to be in agreement on was the need for responsible dental hygiene and education.

The question of what possible alternatives to fluoride exist was also raised.

Smith said distillation, filtration and bottled water could be alternatives, though it was said bottled water may not be accessible to targeted populations.

It was noted that a majority of Western Europe does not fluoridate its water.

“We know that dental disease is epidemic,” Schonfeld said. “Humboldt County is the poster child for that community. This is a community where you need fluoridation.”

Woolley compared water fluoridation with the use of helmets, addition of Vitamin D to milk and folic acid to cereal.

“I still think that the benefits outweigh the risks,” he said.

Smith said he felt it should be the option of the consumer to choose whether they ingest fluoride in their water.

Fluoridated water doesn’t address access to dental care, he said.

“I really believe a person’s choice is a huge part of this,” Smith said.

Board Brushes Up On Fluoride
John Driscoll—The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 05/04/2007 04:23:36 AM PDT

EUREKA -- Water officials on Thursday floated some of the tricky questions beginning to arise over a possible investigation into fluoridating on a regional scale.

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District's Board of Directors heard from several people regarding the pros and cons of treating water with fluoride, and stressed repeatedly that there has been no decision to move forward with any such effort.

But the directors also weighed whether to even crack the books on the subject before its seven wholesale customers have decided whether they want their water treated at its source. The district's role presents interesting questions, since it is an elected body representing both the public and its customers -- cities and service districts with their own elected officials.

”We want to know about this issue and learn about this issue before any decisions are made,” said board Chairman J. Bruce Rupp.

Rupp said public hearings will be convened before any action is taken.

So far, several of the district's seven customers -- who collectively serve 65,000 residents -- have voiced interest in analyzing the costs and benefits of regional fluoridation. Eureka and Arcata, which fluoridate their own water, have not formally asked for an examination of the matter.

Director Aldaron Laird voiced concern about diving into the controversial subject before the district's customers have held public hearings about it and solidified their stance.

”I think that they should be asking that hard question first,” Laird said.

Perhaps the diciest procedural question the water district may have to deal with is what to do if its customers are not unanimous about pursuing regional fluoridation.

The district convened a water task force in April to get initial views about regional fluoridation, a topic raised anew in December at a McKinleyville Community Services District meeting. In the meantime, district General Manager Carol Rische has been gathering information for the board about the advantages and risks of fluoridation.

Advocates and opponents of fluoridation via water provided an outline of what could become a major debate similar to a recent one in Arcata, where a ballot initiative to stop fluoridation in the city failed 60-40. Dental health proponents said the county is facing an oral health crisis that could best be dealt with through water fluoridation. Those opposed to the method argued that people should not be medicated without consent, and said prevention and other means of providing fluoride would be safer and more effective.

Blue Lake resident Maureen Chase suggested that fluoride could instead be provided in salt, much like iodine. She also voiced concern over the potential costs to municipalities or individuals which might want to remove fluoride from their water if a regional system were put in place.

”You guys are in the business of delivering water -- not controversial substances,” Chase said to the board.

Northcoast Head Start Health and Nutrition director Linda Shepard said her experience working with children at or below the poverty level has shown her the consequences of dental decay.

”I'm very in favor of fluoride and anything that can help these children,” Shepard said, “because they really don't have a voice here.”

Whatever course the district and its customers decide to take, nothing about the issue is simple. Even the workings of the regional water system poses problems.

Eureka resident Ken Skaggs said he gets his water through the Humboldt Community Services District, which is still weighing whether or not to ask for an analysis of regional fluoridation. But Skaggs said his water in part comes through Eureka's municipal delivery system, and so contains fluoride.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com


Fluoride Study On Tap For Water District
John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 10/09/2007 04:24:17 AM PDT

The board of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District on Thursday will decide whether to embark on a study of the costs of fluoridating water at the regional level.

A water task force composed of a board member, a district staff member and representatives of the district's wholesale municipal customers recommended the study, said John Palmquist with the water district. The study would cost an estimated $18,000 and take about two months, he said.

Kennedy/Jenks Consultants would do the work to determine the costs of adding fluoride at the Essex turbidity reduction facility. The same firm designed and built that facility, which was completed in 2003.

The district board has been moving cautiously on the fluoridation issue since some of its customers asked whether fluoride might be added at the source.

”It's just a real slow, step-by-step process,” Palmquist said.

The issue has raised some controversy. Some local dental health proponents insist that fluoride prevents tooth decay and is vital for children, especially poor children who don't have proper oral health. But opponents point to information that shows fluoride is hazardous to the health, and that putting the chemical in the water is mass medicating on an involuntary level.

Thursday's vote would only authorize the study. Palmquist said it will have to go back to its customers when the costs are determined before any further steps are taken.

What: Humboldt Bay Water District meeting
When: Thursday, 9 a.m.
Where: 828 7th St., Eureka

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com


“The fact is that I started out as somewhat skeptical and cautious about fluoridation. But then I became a firm believer as proof was assembled by scientists that fluoridation of a water supply will reduce the production of tooth cavities (our most prevalent disease) by 60%, and, just as important, that no disease or defect is caused by this procedure. What particularly allayed my early doubts about adding a chemical to public water supplies was learning that fluoride has always occurred naturally in water supplies.” Dr. Benjamin Spock
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