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Debate over fluoridation of water to be taken up by Hernando commission

Health experts say that the people who benefit most from fluoridation are the poor, who often don’t have access to the foods and dental health products they need to keep their teeth in good shape.

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Health experts say that the people who benefit most from fluoridation are the poor, who often don’t have access to the foods and dental health products they need to keep their teeth in good shape.

BROOKSVILLE — The contentious debate over the fluoridation of water that took place at Brooksville City Hall last year is about to move to the Hernando County Government Center.

The issue is scheduled to come before the County Commission on Feb. 25.

Several dentists have approached county commissioners in recent weeks, asking them to consider fluoridating the water of residents on the county system. Hernando County Utilities serves approximately 62,000 water customers.

The Brooksville City Council voted in October to reintroduce fluoride to the city water supply.

"We really want 100 percent of our public water supplies fluoridated,'' said Johnny Johnson, a Palm Harbor pediatric dentist who has championed the cause in Pinellas County, Brooksville and other communities.

The reason is simple, Johnson said.

Fluoridation is effective in the fight against tooth decay. The big winners, he said, are the poor, who often don't have access to the foods and dental health products they need to keep their teeth in good shape.

"Everyone benefits from it except the dentists,'' he said.

Johnson and local dentist Eva Ackley approached county Commissioner Diane Rowden to promote the fluoridation effort and begin a dialogue with county officials. Since that time, county Administrator Len Sossamon and Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's director of environmental services, have met to talk about the idea.

Goebel-Canning said that fluoridation of county systems would mean finding about 27 injection locations in small and large water treatment plants across the county. Several county employees would need to obtain the proper license to do the fluoridation.

More study is needed, but she said she didn't want to do that until the commission discusses the issue and gives direction on what to do next.

Although she didn't know the price of the fluoride product or other details, she estimated that the cost of putting the fluoridation in place would be about $800,000.

More than a dozen years ago, when the County Commission approved fluoridation, the price tag was about half that amount, but it was one of the factors that kept the county from implementing a fluoridation program. Also, the utilities director was not in favor of the program.

Rowden said she wasn't sure that the figures Goebel-Canning quoted are correct.

"I want to move it forward,'' the commissioner said. "I would be supportive of fluoride, but we need to have all the facts and the cost.''

Johnson said that regardless of the price, fluoridation is a service worth providing. Every $1 spent for fluoridation saves $38 in dental repairs, he said. And when a community implements a program, he noted, there are typically dollars available through grant programs.

Having been through fluoridation debates before, Johnson expects some opposition. But he said he has science on his side and knows that fluoride does not reduce IQs or cause cancer, as some fluoride opponents contend.

Adding fluoride to public water systems, he said, "is a no-brainer.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Debate over fluoridation of water to be taken up by Hernando commission 02/07/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 7, 2014 6:46pm]
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