Pinellas commission wrestles with fluoride politics
County Commissioner Ken Welch said Monday he'll ask the four members who voted to stop adding fluoride to drinking water to reconsider their decision when the board meets again at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Whether it goes anywhere is uncertain without a change by opponents on the board.
The reaction in public email to commissioners through Monday has been split, but polarizing and staunch. Dentists plan to weigh in again Tuesday, and fluoride opponents plan to speak out again too. For example, the county's deputy tourism director, David Downing, sent email from his personal account to Welch and Commissioners Susan Latvala and Karen Seel worrying about its effect on the county's image.
"David Downing here, from the CVB---but I'm writing to you as a private Pinellas County resident to thank you for standing up for reason during the recent fluoride debate. We work hard to promote the area as an environmentally responsible, cultured and forward thinking tourism destination, and negative national coverage from issues like this (as appeared in USA TODAY) only serve to tarnish our image as a vacation destination. And that---unlike responsible fluoridation of drinking water---can do real and lasting damage."
From resident David Jackson:
"Water flouridation is not much different than sending a Flouride (sic) Gestapo around every day to force everyone to take Flouride pills, it
is unethical and doctors who advocate this are in violation of peoples rights and ethics."
Commissioners Nancy Bostock, Neil Brickfield, John Morroni and Norm Roche agreed and voted to stop the practice, despite most local and national dental and medical groups saying its safe. Morroni switched his vote after backing the start of the practice in 2003. Morroni said he learned more -- though he couldn't cite a study -- and most importantly, moods had shifted toward less government. It fell in line with arguments from tea party members -- a new influence on the fluoride debate here.
Roche has been solidly against fluoride since 2003, and Brickfield and Bostock said today nothing's changed their stances. Morroni, who has faced tough criticism from former board members, hasn't returned phone messages Friday and Monday.
"I haven’t seen any evidence since last Tuesday to compel me to change my vote," Brickfield said, noting reports of improved dental habits and sources of fluoride elsewhere. "If we’re getting that much every day, why do we need to put it in the water?"
But dentist Edward Hopwood of Clearwater said the reasons are clear: it helps prevent dental problems, and not just for needy children. Without the county's practice, parents will face pay $45 a year for tablets to supplement their children's fluoride levels properly, Hopwood said. He and other dentists want the board to reconsider the vote, too.