Wichita voters reject water fluoridation bid

2008 11 10 11 04 21 112 Fluoride 70

Voters in Wichita, KS, have decided against water fluoridation, handing a victory to antifluoridation activists that has been difficult to attain in major cities this year.

Following the November 6 vote, the final tally was 74,788 in favor and 50,890 against, roughly a 60% to 40% split, the Wichita Eagle reported. Wichita voters have rejected water fluoridation in the past, with votes against winning in 1964 and 1978.

"From a political standpoint, the odds were against us," Jonathan Hall, spokesperson for Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation, said during an interview with DrBicuspid.com. "The pro-fluoride group set the timeline and had over a year to plan and implement it. They petitioned city council members [to implement water fluoridation] before anyone knew what was going on, so we're pleased with our quick response to their campaign."

“Disappointing but not surprising.”
— Wichitans for Healthy Teeth

Wichitans for Healthy Teeth, a fluoride advocacy group, called the results "disappointing but not surprising" in a post on its website. The group noted that the antifluoride leaders "pumped a lot of money" into robocalls, direct mail, and other messages that "misled and confused voters."

Local TV station KWCH Channel 12 examined three common arguments that were used to attack fluoridation and judged all three to be either "false or misleading," the organization added.

Meanwhile, opposition groups celebrated. In a post on its website following the vote, Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation hailed voters' majority decision as an informed one that "discarded the falsehoods and propaganda" disbursed by fluoridation advocates and called fluoridation "antiquated and unethical."

"The key to success was getting out and educating voters face-to-face," Hall said. "The majority of them that we spoke to were aware of the controversy but didn't understand the ins and outs. They had a lot of questions."

Collaboration possible?

The opposition group also offered to collaborate with fluoridation advocates to improve access to dental care for low-income children. "We challenge those groups who have offered grants to pay for fluoridation start-up costs to use that same money for dental care for low-income children instead," the group added.

Cooperation may prove to be challenging, Hall admitted. "There were a lot of sour grapes between groups as you can imagine," he said. "It was hard to accomplish anything between them."

While a formal debate never took place, both sides used an array of tactics to communicate their messages. Fluoride Free Kansas' official website -- www.fluoridefreekansas.org -- hosts YouTube videos and fact sheets drawn up by the organization describing the dangers of fluoridation. Meanwhile, fluoride advocates set up an eerily similar website of their own -- www.fluoridefreekansas.com -- with detailed information outlining the reasons for their support of water fluoridation and a link to the home page of Wichitans for Healthy Teeth.

And a "Fluoride Voter Guide" was issued by Wichitans for Healthy Teeth, the Wichita District Dental Society, the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, and the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Kansas Dental Association expressed its support for it.

However, fluoridation opponents had the support of the Kansas Republican Assembly and its president, Mark Gietzen, the Wichita Eagle reported. In the article, he stated that fluoridation would come to be viewed like asbestos or other materials that were once viewed as beneficial until negative consequences of their use were revealed over time.

Gietzen expressed ongoing support for the antifluoridation campaign, and stated that he intended to make it a core issue that he will take statewide.

Hall said that antifluoride groups had a meeting on November 8 to discuss their options. "We may try to implement a citywide ban on fluoride," he added.

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