As discussions of what is best for public health have heated up dramatically across the country over the last few years, the city of Montesano decided to jump into the arena, hosting a presentation on water fluoridation.
The Tuesday, Jan. 24 city council meeting saw a packed house of listeners as Natalie Perry, a Montesano resident, and Dr. Kurt Ferre, a Portland-based oral health specialist, gave their rationale for why water fluoridation should be stopped or continued, respectively.
Water fluoridation in Montesano is not new as the city originally began introducing the substance into the city’s public water supply in 1961. Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) recommended that public water supplies contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay after scientists noted that people living in areas with higher water fluoride levels had fewer cavities. While fluoride is not mandated by the federal government, it is now used in the public drinking water supplied to nearly 75% of Americans, according to the PHS.
One of the main points that Perry noted for why the city should discontinue fluoride stemmed from the observation that the fluoride pumped into the city’s water supply contains hydrofluoric acid, a hazardous air pollutant, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and is made exclusively in China.
“When I was putting this together, my little eight-year-old asked me if China fluoridates, and turns out they don’t,” Perry said. “The folks that sell it to us don’t even put it in their water because it’s considered unhygienic.”
Perry pointed out that Europe fluoridates only 3% of its public water supply and cited peer-reviewed studies conducted in Canada and Mexico, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), which claims increased fluoride levels found in the urine of pregnant women later resulted in lower IQs of their children.
In his rebuttal of Perry’s studies, Dr. Ferre cited that “if you torture the data enough, it will show you what you to want to see.” Dr. Ferre advocated the city maintains its water fluoridation due to his lived experiences of working in areas with the product in the water supply and without.
“My ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment came the first time I operated on people’s teeth in a population that didn’t benefit from water fluoridation. Not only did the degree of childhood cavities increase, but the number of root-based cavities in children was beyond concerning,” Dr. Ferre said.
Following the discussion, it was clear Perry had attracted a lot of the audience to her position as most of the public comment sided in favor of her plea for the city to discontinue water fluoridation. Council members said they felt they needed more time to research the findings before considering whether to put the topic up for a vote, with one council member making his position well known.
“I wanted to know if fluoride even works and I answered that question, it does. It benefits younger people up to 12 the best, but it even benefits me at my age,” said Councilman Dave Skaramuca. “But does it hurt us? That’s the question, and I think it does. I really do. That’s my feeling.”
According to Mayor Vini Samuel, it’s unlikely any vote on whether to continue or issue a stoppage of water fluoridation could happen anytime soon, citing that much of the council would need to bring the topic up for discussion on the agenda. She expressed her gratitude to both Perry and Dr. Ferre for making their cases and said the topic will likely be talked about more in-depth over the next “six to seven months.”
Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 or firstname.lastname@example.org