Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Residents want fluoride in water, Times poll shows

At age 85, Theodore Wall believed the benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water were settled. Just like brushing his teeth every day.

That's why he is critical of Pinellas County's decision to stop adding fluoride as of Dec. 31.

"I think it's a mistake. I think fluoride does your teeth good," said Wall, a retired Marine who lives in Pinellas Park.

In strong numbers, adults in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties agree with him. Given the choice, they would prefer fluoride be added to their tap water, according to a new St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 Poll.

It found that 57 percent of residents supported adding fluoride, while 34 percent preferred none go into their water. Another 9 percent were undecided.

The poll, conducted by Braun Research, surveyed 508 adults in Pinellas and Hillsborough Dec. 3-11. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The Pinellas County Commission voted 4-3 in October to stop adding fluoride to drinking water, seven years after starting the practice to prevent cavities. The emotional vote — reaffirmed again Tuesday — rekindled fights that some thought ended decades ago.

Both the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County add fluoride to their water.

Major dental and public health groups say fluoridation is safe and a cost-effective health benefit. Critics succeeded this fall with warnings of health risks — notably government warnings about overexposure to infants — and people's liberties being infringed.

But 50 percent of respondents in both counties disapproved of the Pinellas action. A third of respondents approved, and 17 percent were undecided, according to the poll.

The public's dissonance with the commission vote was stronger in Pinellas. There, 63 percent of adults want fluoride added to the water, and 54 percent disapproved of the commission's action. A third of those surveyed prefer no fluoride be added to the water, and a similar number approved of the vote.

The margin of error of those results was 6.2 percentage points.

Commissioner John Morroni, whose reversal of his 2003 vote in favor of fluoride proved critical to this year's action, said this week he would change his position again if 55 to 60 percent of voters supported adding fluoride.

However, he said, he wants those results from voters themselves. His idea for a referendum got no support from the commission this week.

"That's not a valid measure, that's a poll," Morroni said of the results.

He also said as incoming board chairman he would support another attempt at a ballot measure, but only if dentists resolve their own disagreements over a referendum.

Dentist Amy Anderson, president of the Pinellas County Dental Association, cast doubt on that happening, though.

"Very honestly, I would have hoped that more people would have been in favor of fluoridation," she said of the poll results, noting that dentists probably will focus efforts on supporting pro-fluoride candidates in 2012.

Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch, who supports adding fluoride, said he remains reluctant to back a referendum because of the political risks.

The poll "tells me our general public has a pretty good knowledge about what the science of fluoride is, and that it's a good practice," Welch said. "My issue is how it gets spun in a presidential election year."

Pro-fluoride residents from the poll cite health benefits.

"I think it's probably a good idea to keep it in the water. I think most people don't take as good care of their teeth as they could," said Dan Caruthers, 44, a father of two who lives near Largo.

"It seems like if something is working and working fine, there's no reason to change."

However, the $205,000 annual cost of adding fluoride led Sandra Moore, 73, of South Pasadena, to support the commission's vote. The government should stop the practice, given some people's questions, to save money in tight times, she said.

"They say fluoride is good for our teeth. I think that's true … (but) who's to say they are going to find out some years now, 'Oops, we shouldn't do that,' " she said.

In Hillsborough County, 52 percent wanted fluoride to be added to their tap water, while 36 percent did not, and 12 percent were undecided. The margin of error there was 6.1 percentage points.

Also, 46 percent said they disapproved of Pinellas commissioners, while 34 percent approved and 19 percent were undecided.

Kimberly Wozunk, 42, of Valrico said Pinellas' decision will increase dental costs. Her family has had fluoridated water for 16 years, which she credits with her two kids never having cavities.

Learning that Pinellas will stop the practice made her feel fortunate — but baffled.

"I pretty much had a snark moment," she said. "I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' "

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes

Residents want fluoride in water, Times poll shows 12/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2011 5:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]