BROOKSVILLE — The ongoing question of whether to return fluoride to Brooksville's water supply got another round of attention Tuesday night during a City Council workshop devoted to the opinions of a retired environmental chemistry professor who opposes the practice.
Paul Connett, who taught at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and is co-author of the book The Case Against Fluoride, spent a little more than an hour attacking fluoridation, saying that his 17 years of research showed the health risks of putting the mineral in public water supplies far outweigh any benefits.
"This is a very important issue for the community," Connett told council members.
Using a PowerPoint presentation, he cited numerous studies and reports that he says show the case against fluoridation is growing, and that city residents should not be forced to consume fluoride in their tap water.
"There is nothing that justifies the widespread use of fluoride," Connett said. "It's a dangerous toxin that hasn't been proven to be any more effective than other tooth decay-fighting alternatives that don't have health risks."
The appearance by Connett came largely at the urging of Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn, a staunch fluoride opponent, who two years ago successfully rallied the council to eliminate its funding from the city's budget.
Originally conceived as a "presidential style" debate, Bradburn decided to pull the plug on the idea after failing to attract pro-fluoride experts to debate Connett. After the workshop, she said she was pleased with the presentation, saying that it brought to light information that the public needed to hear. However, council members didn't allow input or questions from the audience.
"It's an emotional issue that is often discussed one-sided," Bradburn said. "I'm glad our citizens finally got a chance to hear the other side."
However, some in attendance weren't pleased by Connett's comments, including several dental health advocates who believed that the presentation consisted largely of cherry-picked ideas that are not supported by decades of studies conducted by most major health organizations, including the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I heard a lot of misrepresentation of what he likes to call science," said Pinellas County pediatric dentist Johnny Johnson. "I think that the public was poorly served by what he told them."
Johnson turned down an invitation to debate Connett one on one because he said doing so might lend credibility to a viewpoint he believes is detrimental to public health. Johnson said that although he was prepared to offer rebuttal to Connett's presentation, he was not invited by the council to do so.
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said a decision on whether to reintroduce fluoridation would likely come at the council's Sept. 11 budget hearing.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.