BROOKSVILLE — Based on the icy reception she gave two proponents, no one needed to guess how much of a hot-button issue the subject of fluoridation of Brooksville's water is to Mayor Lara Bradburn.
Hernando County Health Department dental program manager Teresa Keenan appeared before the City Council on Monday night, hoping to get the subject of returning fluoride to the city water supply put on the council's April 1 agenda. During her allotted three minutes, Keenan spoke favorably about the common practice of adding fluoride to municipal water supplies and how she would be happy to help educate council members about the practice.
"I'm sure we can educate you as well," quipped Bradburn, an adamant opponent of fluoridation who two years ago, during a last-minute budget discussion, led a vote that rid the city of its longtime practice of adding the chemical to Brooksville's water.
Bradburn was adamant that the subject was a "budget matter" and told Keenan the subject wouldn't be discussed during nonbudget meetings.
"You're welcome to come back then," Bradburn said.
Later, when Palm Harbor pediatric dentist Johnny Johnson spoke on the same subject, he was greeted with a similar response from Bradburn.
Johnson, who was among several dental professionals that helped lead the successful effort to return fluoride to Pinellas County water after it was discontinued in 2011, said he's gotten used to such reaction.
"Unfortunately, there's a ton of junk science that we continually have to fight," Johnson said. "But we don't give up. When you see the benefits that fluoridation provides to children, it's a no-brainer."
Brooksville began adding fluoride to its water supply in 1985. Although a similar program was approved by the Hernando County Commission in 1990, it was abandoned after public complaints about possible health risks. There is no fluoride currently added to the county's water supply.
In 2008, Bradburn pushed the council to discontinue the practice of fluoridation, saying that new studies showed the chemical is a health hazard. County Health Department officials managed to convince enough council members to save the program.
The program was finally axed during the final budget hearing of 2011, when council members voted 5-0 to eliminate the $6,000 annual cost.
Johnson said he hoped council members would take him up on his offer to meet one on one to go over information regarding fluoridation.
"I've found that if you talk to someone who's willing to listen to the science, you can get them to change their minds," he said. "It can take some time. But as far as I'm concerned, it's well worth the effort."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.