Fluoride debate coming back to Brooksville

Published July 10 2018
Updated July 10 2018

BROOKSVILLE — Having settled contentious debates about whether to keep their fire and police departments, Brooksville City Council members last week raised another controversial subject — fluoride.

The City Council voted 3-0 to pursue a referendum on the November ballot, asking the residents whether they want to continue adding fluoride to the city water supply. Mayor Betty Erhard, who faced no opposition in her re-election bid and recently won a second term on the council, brought up the topic.

When she ran four years ago, she called fluoride a waste of taxpayer money.

"How do you feel about fluoride in your water?" she posted on her Facebook page before last week’s meeting. "Every day, we are all exposed to many toxic elements in the environment, including fluoride, but we can make healthy choices to help limit our exposure to toxins. From November 21, 2013, through May 17, 2018, City has paid $18,942.36"

She urged citizens to come discuss the issue.

Vice mayor Robert Battista recalled sitting in the audience in 2013 when the topic last was debated.

"I wouldn’t want to sit through it again,’’ he said. "Put it on a referendum.’’

"I sat through hours of it,’’ Council member Joe Bernardini said. "I think we should let them vote.’’

Erhard agreed that a vote of the people was the right choice.

The city has added fluoride to the water since the mid-1980s, but stopped at some point. A debate raged for months in 2013 until the council agreed to put the fluoride back.

Brooksville won a 2013 Community Fluoridation Reaffirmation Award from the American Dental Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors in recognition of the city’s decision to reinstate fluoride in the city water supply.

Dentists and the CDC support the tooth-decay-fighting attributes of the mineral. But another camp calls fluoride a poison and demands that public utilities not medicate residents without their consent.

Pinellas County pediatric dentist Johnny Johnson frequently has entered into fluoride debates and was involved in the last discussion in Brooksville.

He sent city council members a letter last week offering to talk to them about the benefits of fluoride.

"Leading health and medical groups around the world endorse and recognize community water fluoridation as safe and effective for everyone, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, level of education or access to dental care,’’ Johnson wrote. "Not a single credibly recognized health or medical organization in the world opposes water fluoridation. Not one.’’

The Hernando County Commission debated fluoride in 2014, ultimately deciding not to add it to the county water system.

Brooksville began its fluoridation program in 1985 at the urging of several dental professionals, who said it would benefit children of low-income residents who lacked access to regular professional dental care.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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