The public forum held during the Aug. 19 meeting of the Woodland City Council was among the highest attended of the year, with citizens speaking their mind and offering a slew of internet-based evidence about why the city’s water system needed to be free of fluoride.
Approximately 30 minutes later, the council members voted 6-1 in favor of stopping the two-decade practice immediately, bringing a round of applause from those in attendance.
The council members were bombarded with statistics and accusations of the dangers of the chemical, which was first put in American water supplies 60 years ago as a way to combat tooth decay. However, the practice has now come under ever-increasing scrutiny around the world.
Woodland resident Ashley Shang, addressing the council for the fourth time on the subject as one of the most ardent opponents of fluoridation, cited a list of 50 reasons to abolish the practice in her argument.
The list, created by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), a political action group linked to the American Environmental Health Studies Project, calls fluoridation an unethical practice of forced medical treatment that can cause a variety of ailments including birth defects, bone decay, thyroid and brain issues and even osteosarcoma, a bone cancer.
Fluoride is a mineral that is found in many varieties and used in numerous applications. Calcium fluoride, for example, is used in the creation of steel and in aluminum smelting, whereas sodium fluoride is added to water supplies at a regulated amount of 0.7-1.2 parts per million, according to the American Dental Association’s website.
A 2001 doctoral thesis by dentist Elise Bassin at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine linking fluoridated water and osteosarcoma in boys between ages 6-8, is a part of the FAN’s complaint. Gretchen Grooves, Communications Director of the American Cancer Society’s Portland office, said they have no official position on the correlation, but given the rarity of about 400 osteosarcoma cases being reported annually and studies like Bassin’s being based on historical rather than active data, the ACS does stress caution in weighing their findings.
Nevertheless, a growing worldwide movement in the last several years has led to taking it out of public water systems.
“Fluoride goes to everyone, regardless of age or health issues,” said Shang. “Bottle-fed babies can receive 300-400 times as much fluoride as breast-fed babies, but we haven’t heard about the deaths attributed to it because the media doesn’t want to cover it or do the research.”
Shang also included the opinions of Swedish doctor Arvid Carlsson, the 2000 Nobel Prize winner for medicine for his research of Parkinson’s Disease. Carlsson has been an outspoken critic of the ethics of fluoridation in his native country, preferring instead for medications to be tailored to individuals.
Woodland School Nurse, Debbie Shoup, the wife of High School Principal John Shoup, agreed that adding fluoride to the water supply ignored patient and parental consent and was now obsolete.
“Schools require authorization from parents to administer medication to their children. This is a case of mass medication,” Shoup said. “The district helps children with dental issues by bringing a service in twice a year to check them. Healthcare providers also cover fluoride treatment and there are a wide variety of low-cost alternatives available for people to use.”
Rosemary Waldrem-Larson, a visiting tourist from Green Acres, WA near Spokane, said she’d been fighting to bring awareness of the dangers of fluoride to light since she and her son were diagnosed as fatally allergic to the chemical.
“No one ever knowingly gave their life for a lie and I am willing to go to jail or even die to tell people what’s been happening for the last 45 years in this state,” said Waldrem-Larson. “The whole thing is a lie. My son and I were both double-blind tested and found to be allergic, and it’s all a bogus experiment that has led to government experiments like genetic engineering, genetically-modified organisms and so on.”
Council member Ben Fredricks, who’d previously asked for resolutions both continuing and ending fluoridation, was the first to speak in favor of ending it.
“There’s no justification to systemically use it in the water supply when it can be taken topically to fight tooth decay,” Fredricks said. “No local, state or federal government has the right to force citizens to take any medication for illness that is neither life-threatening or contagious, no matter how justified their reasons are.”
Marilee McCall sided with Fredricks and thanked the public for their input in the matter.
“I’ve weighed both sides and my concerns are about the cumulative effect of build-up and fluoride being a potentially-toxic byproduct,” said McCall. Based on that evidence, I am in agreement to remove it from our water system.”
Council member Scott Perry, who also sits on the Horseshoe Lake Committee, asked Public Works Director Bart Stepp if adding fluoride also meant adding other chemicals, like chlorine, to the water to keep it usable.
“We use chlorine to remove pathogens and bacteria from the water, but it doesn’t impact fluoridation,” said Stepp.
Al Swindell was the only council member to vote against abandoning the program, which Stepp said would cease immediately.
“We just have to hit a switch and shut off the tank that adds the fluoride to the system,” Stepp said. “It will still take a few days for the fluoride in the system to be processed out, since there’s no way to separate it out.”
Stepp added that the cost of no longer purchasing fluoride tablets and running the system would not have a major impact on the city’s budget, in terms of savings.