Editorial: Restore fluoride to Brooksville's water

Published Sep. 20, 2013

The Brooksville City Council should focus on public health and established science this week, stand up to the voices spreading misinformation and fanning unfounded fear, and vote to resume adding fluoride to the city's drinking water. This battle has been fought and won in Pinellas County, and it can be won in this Hernando County community if residents insist that their elected officials act in their best interest.

The City Council already has added $10,000 to its utilities budget to cover the fluoridation program costs for the coming year, but council members have not formally reversed their ill-advised vote two years ago that stopped fluoridation.

That September 2011 clandestine maneuver — coming late in a budget hearing with no public notice or debate — was portrayed disingenuously by Mayor Lara Bradburn as a cost saver. Some savings. It meant 77 cents per resident added to the Utilities Department's reserve account and no reduction in water rates charged by the city. Meanwhile, a University of Georgia and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimates fluoridated drinking water in a city the size of Brooksville would generate annual savings of $16 per person in reduced cavity treatment costs and lost time for dental visits.

City finances have been overshadowed by the mayor's balderdash. Bradburn disparaged the medical credentials of a fluoride advocate, chastised a fellow council member who changed his position, and recently stifled public participation at a council workshop that was little more than an uninterrupted hour of irresponsible rhetoric from an out-of-state fluoride critic misrepresenting academic studies. The scare tactics play well to the libertarian crowd pushing conspiratorial hysteria, but they fail to refute peer-reviewed studies showing optimal fluoride levels in drinking water are a sound part of oral hygiene, particularly for children.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department recommends 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, while many of the studies condemning fluoridation focus on levels nearly six times higher and are focused on fluoride use in other countries. Brooksville's own measurements showed levels within the safe range of the optimal amount before the council pulled the plug two years ago.

The Centers for Disease Control, U.S. surgeon general, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dental Association and dozens of other organizations representing health professionals recognize the public health benefits of community fluoridation — a benefit available to nearly 13.8 million Floridians, but not to Brooksville residents.

The Pinellas County Commission made a similar mistake and voted in 2011 to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water. But voters demanded better, ousted two commissioners in November who had voted to stop adding fluoride and elected two replacements who helped reverse the decision. The Brooksville City Council has an opportunity to learn from that experience and act in the best interests of the city's residents by restoring fluoride to the city's drinking water.