Amid more than two hours of impassioned public comment and in front of a lively, yet divided room, those in the community opposed to fluoridation made their case to the Water Advisory Committee Thursday as to why the city should not add the compound to Davis’ drinking water.
The effort to fight fluoridation in Davis is led by community member Alan Pryor, a Natural Resources Commissioner and an MPH, who gave the only formal presentation Thursday about the dangers of fluoridating a potable water supply.
Pryor certainly was not alone, however, as dozens of residents in attendance spoke at length during public comment about their fears over fluoridation as well.
While Pryor acknowledged that fluoride can help fight dental decay when applied topically, he began his cross-examination of the substance Thursday by disputing its effectiveness when injected into a water supply.
To illustrate his argument, Pryor cited lower cavity rates in European countries that don’t fluoridate their water compared to other countries, that family income levels are a much higher predictor of cavity rates and several other studies that demonstrated a missing relationship between fluoridation and lower rates of dental decay.
In San Francisco, for example, which has been fluoridating its water since 1951, Pryor explained that 29 percent of kindergarteners had untreated dental decay (in 2004), while Davis showed only 16 percent (in 2009) and doesn’t fluoridate its water.
“Davis clearly has much better dental health, and I feel that this is an indication that we will not benefit from fluoridation,” Pryor said.
Later, Pryor outlined the health risk factors associated with mass-fluoridating a water supply, including fluorosis — or the spotting and pitting of teeth, and potentially other bones, from an overexposure to the substance — and the possible effects on the brain and the thyroid when fluoride is consumed.
Pryor also covered the potential hazard to the environment that fluoride could present, especially considering the nominal amount of the compound that’s consumed by people.
“(About 99.7) percent of the fluoride used is not even going into the human body,” Pryor said. “It’s going down our drains, in our parks, to the wetlands because it goes out to the sewers, our green belts … I would suggest to you that there’s no more inefficient means of delivering a medicine to the public than what we’re proposing to do.”
But in addition to those opposed to fluoridation, many community members in favor of it also spoke Thursday, reminding the committee of their arguments from the meeting prior when they had the floor: that fluoride is proven to reduce dental decay and cavities, particularly in children, that it helps those families who can’t afford quality dental care and that it saves all residents money on dental care.
Perhaps underscoring the polarizing nature of fluoridation — similar debates have torn through larger communities such as Portland, Ore. and Tampa Bay, Fla. of late — Thursday’s meeting attracted the largest crowd to attend a water committee meeting thus far.
The committee spent all of last year vetting the $113 million Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project that was put up for a public vote earlier this year.
Several residents wondered why this issue, too, wouldn’t be put to a vote.
The WAC will debate whether the city should fluoridate its water and make a recommendation to the City Council June 27. The council is scheduled to make a decision on July 9.
To watch Pryor’s full presentation and the ensuing public commentary, visit the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media. His PowerPoint presentation, in addition to all of the sources Pryor used to support his arguments, can also be viewed on the Water Advisory Committee’s webpage on the city’s website under the May 23 meeting agenda.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash