Fluoridation advocates win in Phoenix

2008 11 10 11 04 21 112 Fluoride 70

The city council of Phoenix voted September 11 to continue fluoridating the city's water supply. The vote concludes the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee's consideration of the practice and effectively ends this round of debates over fluoridation in the city.

"This is absolutely a big victory for Phoenix," Kevin Earle, MPH, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association (AzDA), said in an interview with DrBicuspid.com. "The city will continue to fluoridate as it has since 1989."

“The council decided that the best science supports fluoridation.”
— Kevin Earle, MPH, AzDA executive

Three council members voted to affirm the fluoridation policy currently in place, while one abstained. In a press release, AzDA noted that Thelda Williams, chair of the council -- who voted in favor of keeping fluoridation -- said she felt that "public health was the responsibility of the government."

Phoenix would have been the first major U.S. metropolitan area to end fluoridation if the city council had decided differently. Leading up to the vote, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), an antifluoridation organization, held a public debate on September 5 at Phoenix College's Bulpitt Auditorium. Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, a Phoenix dentist who also founded Dentaltown.com, debated Paul Connett, PhD, a FAN activist.

"Typically these debates involve outsiders that come in and testify with cherry-picked remote studies suggesting that fluoridation is dangerous," Earle said. "We experienced that here as well, but luckily we were able to prevail. The council decided that the best science supports fluoridation."

An element of the opposition's position is that fluoride is available in more places than ever, and if consumers feel that it is safe, it is obtainable. "That presumes everybody has access to those sources," Earle responded. "Those in underprivileged communities don't always brush or have a toothbrush. Fluoridation benefits them to a great degree.

"Of course, there are other things we have to do, such as improving oral health literacy, providing a dental health safety net, and supporting a Medicaid system where a lot of folks are slipping through the cracks," he added.

Phoenix is not the only major metropolitan area in the U.S. currently debating water fluoridation. Lawmakers in Portland, OR -- the largest U.S. city that has never fluoridated its water supply -- are expected to vote this week on whether to adopt fluoridation. And last month, the city council of Wichita, KS, voted unanimously to let voters decide in November if the city should adopt water fluoridation.

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