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Fluoride likely to stay in water

John Colson

Although a formal vote of the City Council may ultimately change things, it appears that Aspen will continue fluoridating its water supplies unless compelling evidence is produced to convince local officials to do otherwise.

Three members of the City Council – Tony Hershey, Tom McCabe and Terry Paulson – decided to stick with the city’s 26-year-old fluoridation program after hearing a final report from the city’s environmental health department at a work session on Tuesday.

But Paulson argued that Mayor Rachel Richards and Councilman Jim Markalunas, who were not at the work session, must be polled concerning their feelings about the water additive. Paulson also called for a formal vote on the issue at a regular council meeting.

The issue arose, this time around, when citizens petitioned the City Council in August 1999 to stop adding fluoride to the local municipal water supply.

Aspen has added fluoride to its water since 1964, in the belief that it vastly reduces the incidence of tooth decay among residents.

But twice recently – in 1989 and again last year – a contingent of citizens argued that fluoride is a deadly poison and that even small amounts pose risks to public health.

“Sodium fluoride is a rat poison,” said local chiropractor Tom Lankering on Tuesday. “It’s one of the ten deadliest toxins that are out there.”

He said people should have the freedom to choose whether they want to ingest the substance, and that if some people believe fluoride is beneficial, they can get it through other sources.

“At some point, the psychologists might want to put Prozac in the water, and what’s the difference?” he asked.

But council members Hershey and McCabe said Tuesday that they were skeptical of claims that the substance is poisonous. They also said that they believe dental health experts who have argued that without fluoride in the water, the incidence of cavities in teeth would rise markedly.

Paulson suggested the city conduct an “experiment,” suspending the use of fluoride for a period of five years to see what the effects are on local dental health.

But, countered Hershey, “If there are more kids with cavities, I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

McCabe noted that life expectancy has risen nationwide, “so something we’re doing in public health is having a positive effect.”

The three agreed to go along with a formal vote if a majority feels it is needed, but Hershey worried that it might engender yet another prolonged debate.

“I just don’t see the need for a vote,” he declared.


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