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Brooksville voters will be asked to settle fluoride question

 
Brooksville City Hall
Brooksville City Hall
Published Oct. 23, 2018

BROOKSVILLE — Residents of the city of Brooksville will face an even longer ballot than other Hernando County voters for the upcoming general election.

In addition to the myriad of federal, state and local races as well has a long list of potential constitutional amendment questions, Brooksville residents will also be asked if they want to continue to receive fluoride in their water supply.

In recent days, those who support and those who oppose fluoridation have been busy reaching out to voters and inundating city officials with materials bolstering their arguments. Brooksville has also been featured in a recent national report by NBC News about the small vocal minority of fluoride opponents continuing to raise the issue across the nation.

Just a few years ago debates about adding the substance, which the country's top dental and medical organizations say curbs tooth decay, raged at city council meetings.

In July, at the request of Mayor Betty Erhard, a divided City Council voted to place the question on the ballot. Erhard said that from November 21, 2013, through May 17, 2018, the city has paid $18,942.36 to fluoridate its city water supply and that she thought citizens should at least have a chance to vote to say they want that.

In other places and at other times, anti-fluoride groups have argued that the science shows that fluoride at the levels recommended was more dangerous as a water additive than it was beneficial. The arguments including allegations that it causes declines in intelligence and causes cancer. Part of why the City Council agreed to put it to a vote of the people was to avoid a continuation of that debate at the council level.

Still the council members have been receiving plenty of materials from the anti-fluoride groups. Last week, they got a packet of more than 200 pages assembled for their attention by Cathy Justus, national spokeswoman against Fluoride Poisoning in Animals.

A few local dentists and a fluoride advocate and dentist from Pinellas County, Johnny Johnson, urged the council during citizen comment to keep the fluoride in the water for the sake of all Brooksville residents but especially those who did not have other access to fluoride or dental care.

In recent weeks, Johnson has taken to the airwaves on local radio and spoken at social service agencies, while the local representatives of the State Health Department have passed out flyers. Yard signs and groups of residents waving signs on street corners have been other methods to influence voters used by those who support keeping the mineral in the city's water supply.

Fluoride advocates have argued before the council and the Hernando County Commission when they briefly considered fluoridation several years ago, that prevention is a much more cost effective approach than treating dental problems after they appear.

The city has added fluoride to the water since the mid 1980s but stopped at some point. After a rousing debate in 2013, the council returned the fluoride to the water. Then in 2013, Brooksville won a 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 for their decision to bring fluoride back.

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Mainstream medical and dental organizations are so positive that fluoride at the recommended levels are critical to preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has heralded public water fluoridation as one of the top public health achievements of the century.

READ MORE: Fluoride debate coming back to Brooksville

READ MORE: County Commission rejects adding fluoride to water supply

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