BROOKSVILLE — In what has become a much-talked-about issue lately in Brooksville, advocates on both sides of the subject of communitywide fluoridation lined up Tuesday to debate the issue at a Brooksville City Council information workshop.
The hot-button issue is likely to come again before the council over the next few months.
The Hernando County Health Department, which favors a return of fluoridation, invited a team of dental health care professionals to speak in favor of the practice.
Pasco pediatric dentist Dr. Johnny Johnson, who successfully fought to return the practice of fluoridation to Pinellas County in 2012, said it is "the only magic bullet we have" when it comes to mass preventive dental care.
Johnson said he has never seen any credible evidence that the chemical is toxic to humans.
Hernando County senior dentist Dr. Pedro Lense said that adding fluoride to public water offers benefits that cut across economic lines, and especially helps those who are least apt to receive regular dental care.
"The folks I see are the ones who need the most work," said Lense, who added that the relatively small cost of fluoridation far outweighs the cost that taxpayers pay to fill cavities in untreated teeth.
Mayor Lara Bradburn, who was able to persuade her fellow council colleagues to halt the practice at a 2011 budget hearing, once again led the call to keep fluoride out of the city's water supply.
"I'm not a scientist and I'm not a medical professional, but I've read a lot of research and I'm convinced that this chemical doesn't belong in our water supply," Bradburn said.
Bradburn quoted from the more than 50 studies that indicated fluoride as a known cause of diseases, birth defects and other maladies, and extensively quoted a 2006 report by a committee of the National Research Council that recommended that the federal government lower its current limit for fluoride in drinking water because of health risks.
"This is not myth," Bradburn said. "The (dental) industry will not admit that this is a dangerous chemical we're giving to our citizens."
Bradburn's words were often met with shaking heads from the nearly one dozen fluoride proponents who showed up.
However, Bradburn had her share of supporters, including Spring Hill resident Barbara Bartlett, who claimed that her two sons had suffered mental lapses due to long-term consumption of fluoridated water.
"There's no need for everyone to have to suffer," she said.
Council member Joe Bernardini said that he might be a stronger supporter of fluoridation if there was a feasible way for the public to have a choice.
"If someone doesn't want it in their water, they should have a way to remove it," Bernardini said. "So far, no one has shown me an affordable way that it can be done."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.