Arcata voters may once again be asked whether or not they think their drinking water should contain fluoride. On Wednesday night the Arcata City Council will discuss placing a measure on the November ballot that would discontinue fluoridation of the city’s water system.
The request to consider removing fluoridation was brought forward by Arcata City Councilmember Paul Pitino, who believes that fluoride may not be as safe as the public has been led to believe.
“The stuff is poison,” Pitino told the Outpost in a phone interview. “It’s generally considered a waste product.” Pitino added that there is no way to remove fluoride from your drinking water unless you have a reverse osmosis filter.
A measure to stop fluoridation, Measure W, already came before the Arcata voters in 2006 and was defeated 62 to 38 percent. But Pitino believes that with more information now available on the topic, it might be time to give the voters another say.
“I think we’re a much more aware public today in general, 12 years later,” Pitino said. Pitino also believes that the way Measure W was written was unclear, which may have affected the outcome of vote.
Many local medical and public health professionals and organizations — including representatives from Open Door Health Centers, the Humboldt County Dental Society, and county Public Health — were against Measure W, saying that fluoridation is beneficial for the community’s oral health.
Laura McEwen, Humboldt County Department of Public Health Program Services Coordinator for the Oral Health Program, told the Outpost this week that she supports fluoridation because it is safe and effective at preventing tooth decay. McEwen cited the fact that the Center for Disease Control named fluoridation of drinking water one of the ten greatest medical achievements of the 20th century.
McEwen said that the data supports fluoridation helping prevent dental disease, especially in children. According to the kindergarten oral health assessment, about 30 percent of children entering kindergarten at Arcata Elementary suffered from oral decay, McEwen said, compared to 51 percent or more in communities that don’t have public water fluoridation.
“That’s a huge burden on our youngest population,” McEwen said. “We want them to be successful and without dental disease.”
But Pitino believes that the argument that fluoride protects kids’ teeth is not enough to justify putting fluoride in the public water supply and that the real issue we need to address is the children’s lack of proper nutrition and access to affordable dental care, adding that almost no local dentists will take Medi-cal.
“The real problem with kids’ teeth is drinking sugary sodas,” Pitino told the Outpost. “Using kids’ teeth as an argument is just crazy. Not all of us need to drink [fluoride] forever.”
The Arcata City Council will discuss this and other important issues on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Arcata City Hall — 736 F Street.
You can view the full agenda here.