Like a cavity that sneaks up on you at the dentist office, Lawrence city commissioners found the makings of an unexpected debate on Tuesday.
Should the city’s two water treatment plants continue to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water?
City commissioners at their weekly meeting directed City Auditor Michael Eglinski to prepare a report summarizing the latest scientific research on whether adding fluoride to drinking water is beneficial.
City Commissioner Hugh Carter raised the fluoride issue after commissioners received a report related to taste and odor issues the city experienced with its water last summer.
Carter said he realizes the taste and odor issues aren’t related to fluoride, but he said the fluoride issue is one that has been on his mind for several months.
“People still are quoting research the government did in 1979,” Carter said. “I think that is about the last time the city studied the issue. I think on most issues we have found that better science has emerged than what we had in 1979.”
Commissioners on Tuesday didn’t take any votes on the fluoride issue but rather directed Eglinski to prepare the study. Other commissioners didn’t weigh in on whether they had any concerns about fluoride being added to the drinking water.
“You can never have too much information,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.
Carter said after the meeting that the mother of his children is in the health and nutrition field and has long cited more recent research that questions the benefits of fluoride in the drinking water. Carter said he also got an email from a concerned citizen about six months ago, which caused him to start thinking about the issue again.
“It is not a matter of whether this is terribly dangerous for us,” Carter said. “But if we can’t get a comfort level of whether this is good and has real value, then I don’t see any reason to keep adding it.”
Fluoride issues have arisen in other cities. Wichita voters last year rejected a ballot measure that would have required the city of Wichita to start adding fluoride to its water. Wichita voters also rejected the idea in 1964 and 1978, according to published reports in The Wichita Eagle.
Opponents of the measure in Wichita argued fluoridation has a long list of potential side effects, including staining of the teeth, reduced intelligence, cancer and thyroid disease, according to reports in The Eagle. Supporters argued fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.
According to reports in The Eagle, about 75 percent of the country drinks water with fluoride.
Lawrence city commissioners may get a report on the subject soon. Carter is leaving the commission in early April, after deciding not to run for re-election. He indicated he would like to see a report before then.
Eglinski, the city auditor, said he thought it would be pretty straightforward to compile a report on the latest scientific research on the issue.