Pinellas County voters can reaffirm the county's moderate sensibilities Tuesday and repair its reputation as an enlightened community that embraces science, high-tech jobs and education. They can remove two county commissioners who voted to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water and replace them with two new faces who pledge to overturn that foolish decision. This is not an issue that should divide Republicans, Democrats and independents. It is one that speaks loudly about the county's values and its expectation that its elected leaders will make decisions based on facts and expert advice rather than lies and misinformed ideologues.
. They voted to stop adding fluoride into the drinking water and should be replaced:
Neil Brickfield, District 1
Nancy Bostock, District 3
. They pledge to resume adding fluoride into the drinking water and should be elected:
Janet C. Long, District 1
Charlie Justice, District 3
“Fluoride is naturally present in all water. Community water fluoridation is the precise adjustment of fluoride that occurs naturally in a community's water supply to the level recommended for optimal dental health. It is important that community leaders understand that cutting these vital health programs will directly lead to more cavities or tooth decay.''
Dr. Kim Jernigan, president of the Florida Dental Association, Pensacola
"It is the ideal public health measure where everyone benefits, whether rich or poor, no matter the age, without requiring any conscious effort of the individual. … It is doubtful that any other public health procedure has undergone more research, epidemiological study and intense public scrutiny than water fluoridation.''
Dr. John H. Armstrong, state surgeon general and secretary of the Florida Department of Health
"We promote water fluoridation as effective. We would say it is absolutely safe.''
Dr. William Bailey, acting director for oral health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
By the numbers
196 million: Americans drinking fluoridated water
13 million: Floridians drinking fluoridated water
700,000: Pinellas County residents affected by the commission's decision to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water
Fiction and facts
Fiction: Infants should not drink formula mixed with fluoridated water.
Fact: Fluoridated water can be used to prepare infant formula. To lessen the chance of mild dental fluorosis — barely recognizable flecks on teeth — use low-fluoride bottled water some of the time to mix infant formula.
Fiction: Children under 8 years old should not drink fluoridated water.
Fact: Children under 8 can drink fluoridated water. Begin using toothpaste with fluoride when a child is 2 years old. It is highly unlikely a child will receive too much fluoride.
Fiction: There is no need to add fluoride to the drinking water because it is available in toothpaste and other food and beverages.
Fact: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended lowering fluoridation levels to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water instead of a range, and the Pinellas level was only 0.8 milligrams per liter. Fluoridated water still substantially reduces tooth decay.
Sources: Florida Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services