Four out of five dentists must be right when they say fluoride is safe in the water supply and prevents cavities in children, the Melbourne City Council agreed last week – for the second time this year.
But this time, unlike Jan. 24, it wasn’t unanimous.
In a 4-3 vote on Nov. 26, council members agreed to keep adding fluoride to the city’s water supply as they had been since 1966.
In addition to Melbourne residents on both sides of the Indian River Lagoon, the city also serves about 170,000 people in Satellite Beach, Indian Harbour Beach, Indialantic and Melbourne Beach on the county’s barrier island, as well as West Melbourne and Palm Shores on the mainland. “Fluoride is naturally in our water … and it’s the most effective way to prevent tooth decay,” Councilwoman Yvonne Minus said, making the motion. “After (thousands of) studies, if there was any evidence of harm, we’d know by now.”
Minus also drew on endorsements of fluoride by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Defense.
Mayor Kathy Meehan supported Minus’ motion, as did council members Tim Thomas and Debbie Thomas, no relation. Vice Mayor Paul Alfrey dissented, as did council members Mark LaRusso and Julie Sanders.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that all the great doctors who have come here care for their patients,” Alfrey said. But the patients should have a say in fluoridation, he said.
Minus’ motion came after 2 ½ hours of testimony, in which 24 people, mostly Brevard County dentists or other scientists, urged the city to continue fluoridation while half as many lay people expressed concern of fluoride being a possible neurotoxin.
Council members heard similar pleas in a Jan. 24 meeting. But after that 7-0 vote to keep the fluoride, Satellite Beach resident Linda Palmisano continued to attend Melbourne council meetings and express concerns about the chemical’s link to low-IQ scores among children and cancer in adults.
“Sugar is the main cause of dental decay,” Palmisano said – not the absence of fluoride in a community’s water.
Some residents, while not outright condemning fluoride’s properties, nevertheless said the city should have asked if they wanted the additive. They called for such “informed consent.”
Melbourne Utilities Director Ralph Reigelsperger said his department adds fluoride to the water in a steady stream of hydroflurosilicic acid.
“It’s a constant feed, so there’s no bulk load,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 calculated the “optimal” level of fluoride as 0.7 parts of the chemical to 1 million parts of water. Reigelsperger said Melbourne’s natural water already contains 0.2 parts fluoride per 1 million parts water.
He said his system adds enough hydroflurosilicic acid to bring the fluoride to 0.6 parts per million, just less than the optimal level.
Dr. Yoshita Patel Hosking, a pediatric dentist based in Viera and member of the Brevard County Dental Society, collected a petition of 62 names of fellow members all in favor of continued fluoridation.
“I’m pleased (council members) made their decision for children and considered science-based evidence,” Hosking said.
Palmisano, however, couldn’t be reached after the meeting to say if she would continue her council appearances in the fight to stop fluoridation.