Mayor to appoint team of medical professionals to study water fluoridation
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor
July 2, 2008 - Sulphur Springs Mayor Oscar Aguilar was charged with setting up an ad hoc committee of medical professionals to answer the question of whether or not the city of Sulphur Springs should continue to add flouride to its water.
Councilman Charles Oxford, who was elected in May, had asked that an item be placed on Tuesday night's agenda regarding removal of flouride from the city's public drinking water.
It was the second time this year Oxford had brought up the issue before the council, but the first time as a member of the panel. At the May council meeting, when bids for water treatment plant chemicals was discussed, Oxford asked council members to delay a decision on the bid for the chemical fluoride be delayed -- "I'd rather it be deleted," he said -- until the next month.
Last week, Oxford sent out packets of information about fluoride to council members and others. He said Tuesday he hoped his fellow council members had time to study the issue and come to a conclusion.
"I would really like to hear from each council member if you feel that it is sufficient at this point to make a deicsion, because this is an imporatant decision," he said.
Oxford added that in another city he'd lived in -- he previously served on the governing board in Hot Springs, Ark. -- there was no flouride in the water, but others had tried to force the city to add the chemical.
He said a state official "repeatedly on many occasions said 'The science is clear,' and yet he never presented the first jot or tittle or science whatsoever."
"He refused consistently to even meet with anyone to discuss it," Oxford said. "I'm still wating for someone to provide the sciene. I can't find it, nor seen anyone present it."
Oxford said he welcomes hearing arguments from other points of view, but "until we do, I would like to see us terminate that ingredient in our water."
Mayor Pro Tem Gary Spraggins indicated he would prefer to hear from people who had more education in health-related matters before making up his mind.
"I was visited by one dentist after your presentation [in May] who said the American Dental Association has strongly recommended keeping flouride in the water," Spraggins said.
That's when Spraggins suggested the mayor appoint a committee made up of dentists and other medical professionals to report on the issue.
"If they would then look at the information and give a medical opinion and give us a report on this, then maybe we could take action on this futher down the road," Spraggins said.
"I don't think I'm informed enough," Spraggins added. "I've read [Oxford's] material ... but I've also heard from people telling me it's a good thing to have. You're against it, and I respect that, but I would like to hear people who are for it who maybe can give scientific evidence."
Oxford indicated he was open to hearing other points of view.
"I really would like to hear what it is they think is so clear science that it is good for us, bottom line," he said.
Mayor Oscar Aguilar and other council members also indicated a willingness to hear the opinions of medical professionals.
"There are other towns and cities that have dropped [flouride] and then, by all means, have brought it back," Aguilar said. "Why they brought it back is something we need to look into."
Council members agreed that the mayor should appoint the committee to study the issue but did not set a specific deadline for a report.
The movement to add fluoride to public water supplies, which began in the middle of the last century, began as a stated effort to improve public dental health. It came following studies indicating people who drank water containing naturally occurring fluoride showed better dental health than those who didn't.
Oxford told the council in May that the decision to add fluoride to public water supplies was a mistake and suggested there has been an ongoing cover-up of studies indicating that fluoride does not improve dental health but instead is a danger to humans.
Oxford's comments echo a number of other voices that have long protested the addition of fluoride to public water supplies. But fluoridation has more supporters than detractors, and supporters say those who oppose it are misguided, misinformed and paranoid.
According to a CDC database, the city of Sulphur Springs has employed fluoridation since 1967, stating, "This water system adjusts the natural fluoride concentration upward to the optimal level for the prevention of dental [cavities]." The optimal fluoride concentration is set at 0.80 parts per million.
Most water supply systems in Hopkins County also use water containing fluoride.