South Blount County Utility District faces fluoride issue again
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
South Blount County Utility District’s recent decision to let customers determine whether to continue fluoridating its water has brought a long-running community controversy back into focus.The utility recently confirmed that it is allowing its customers to vote on whether to continue water fluoridation. SBCUD will be sending out postcards that are nonduplicatable so each account gets one vote. Customers will have through May to return those. The return date deadline will be June 15.
The accounting firm, Ingram, Overholt, and Bean, will tabulate the results and forward them to the utility’s Board of Commissioners, which is expected to vote on the issue during its July meeting.Linda King, of Citizens for Blount County’s Future, has been leading a fight against fluoridation since SBCUD began fluoridating water at its plant in 2008. She believes there are health issues associated with fluoride.
“I don’t think that people should be forced to ingest something that they have not agreed to,” she said. “They are putting this in our tap water, which means we are forced to either drink that water ... or pay for expensive filters for our homes so we don’t have to drink it or bathe in it.”
Overexposure to fluoride can be hazardous to health, King said. “A lot of people don’t realize the damage that can be caused by drinking fluoride ... the fact that they may have thyroid disorder or arthritis or cancers — they don’t connect it that it could be caused by fluoride and that harm that can be done.
“I’m not saying that people shouldn’t use it on teeth. Topically, it could be good for you to use fluoride on your teeth. ... We just know that ingesting it is not good, and it builds up in your body. It does not eliminate from your bodies like other things do.”
Tennessee Department of Health spokeswoman Shelley Walker provided her department’s policy statement regarding fluoridation: “The TDH fully supports and endorses community water fluoridation, at optimal levels of 0.7 parts per million, in public water systems in Tennessee.”
Maryville dentist Kim C. Norman, D.D.S., said that properly fluoridated water is completely safe. “Absolutely,” he said. “There is no valid scientific data showing otherwise. There is tons of science behind that, which is readily available on the American Dental Association website as well as other places, that has validity. This small fraction of people who are opposing fluoride really have no valid science behind their arguments.”
Norman believes it would be a mistake to stop fluoridating water. “I think we’d be turning the clock way back as far as the good we’ve done eradicating dental disease, specifically ... decay, by not fluoridating the water,” he said. “People do have other choices, there are other sources of fluoride, but it’s a no-brainer to fluoridate the water for the good it’s accomplishing.”
According to the TDH, fluoride is a mineral that is naturally found in all water. Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of that level to one proven to be safe and effective in preventing dental caries.
Community water fluoridation began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945, and in 1951 Milan became the first city in the state to fluoridate its water supply. A five-year study conducted in Milan compared the caries experience of 6-year-old children in 1956 with the same age group in 1951 and found a 57 percent reduction in decay.
Comparisons in Tennessee with prefluoridation surveys conducted in the early 1950s showed that by 1988 there was a 75 percent decline in tooth decay in permanent teeth of children as a result of widespread use of fluoride both topical and systemic, according to the TDH.
Currently, more than 204 million people, or 73.9 percent of the United States population, receive fluoridated water as do 5.3 million or 91.6 percent of Tennesseans on community water systems.
The addition of fluoride to the water supply has been the subject of local controversy since the SBCUD board originally voted not to fluoridate the water when the district opened its new plant in July 2004.
In 2008, however, the board voted to begin fluoridation at the request of then-Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham. Fluoridation ultimately began that May.
Later that year, King filed a lawsuit in Blount County Chancery Court requesting that the utility provide documentation showing fluoride in water is safe to drink. Her request for a temporary injunction against the district was denied, and the suit was later dismissed.