Public water fluoridation conflict still afloat
Public water fluoridation conflict still afloat
by JEAN ORTIZ, Lincoln Journal Star, August 12, 2004 - original
YORK - It doesn't take but a few minutes inside Wesley Trollope's home before he might offer his visitors a glass of ice water - without added fluoride that is.

Trollope, 76, has spent more than 40 years and thousands of dollars of his own money lobbying against adding fluoride to public water systems. He successfully campaigned last year against a measure to add fluoride to the water in York, a southeast Nebraska city of 8,000. And he's prepared to fight against it again next year if need be.

Trollope is not alone in his beliefs that fluoride is poisonous.

After more than five decades of support from the surgeon general and other national health officials that adding fluoridation fights tooth decay, many communities have not added it, largely because of health concerns.

"They may think they're telling you the facts, but they're really unwilling to accept the advice of those institutions that we as a society have used to advise us on major health issues," said Dr. William Maas, director of the division of oral health at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some 65.8 percent of the nation's population on public water systems receives fluoridated water - a nearly 4 percentage-point increase from 1992, Maas said.

Substantial progress has been made during the last decade in getting larger communities such as San Antonio, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Salt Lake City to add fluoride to public water systems.

In Nebraska, 77.7 percent of the population in 2000 received fluoridated water, according to the CDC. Lincoln, Omaha, Kearney, Columbus, McCook and Alliance are among the communities that have fluoride in the public system.

Trollope contends fluoride is poisonous, because a bottle of sodium fluoride, which according to the CDC is one of the chemicals used in minute quantities to bring water levels to healthy fluoride levels, bears a poison symbol.

Linda Orgain, a health communications specialist with the CDC, said fluoride, while healthy in the recommended amounts, is not meant to be consumed in large quantities, she said. The same could be said of vitamins, she added.

In his argument against allowing municipalities to add fluoride to public water, Trollope also refers to the Constitution, which he says offers U.S. citizens the freedom to decide what goes in their water.

"It's your water," he said. "It's your freedom."

Trollope, a Korean War veteran, said fluoridation was one of the tools of socialism. The government is trying to force something down Americans' throats, which doesn't spell democracy, he said.

Between 0.7 parts and 1.2 parts fluoride per million parts of water is the recommended amount needed in public water systems for the prevention of tooth decay, according to the CDC.

It is likely impossible to drink the amount of water required to consume a harmful level of fluoride, said Dr. John Stamm, a spokesman for the American Dental Association.

York water naturally contains one-quarter of the recommended amount of fluoride.

In Nebraska, it costs about 32 cents per person a year to fluoridate a community water system. By comparison, a filling for a cavity can cost about $75.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the most recent national oral health survey, conducted in 1986 and 1987, found that children who drank fluoridated water over their lifetime had 18 percent less dental decay than children who didn't drink fluoridated water.

Trollope spent $10,000 of his money for ads in the local newspaper during his most recent campaign to make people aware of what he believes is the truth, he said.

Though the vote has long passed, the issue is not dead, said Mark Brouillette, a local dentist. Brouillette opposes Trollope's view and tried to convince voters that fluoride has benefits.

By state statute, the city council can revisit the issue next year.

York Mayor Greg Adams said that if the medical community has concerns at that time, the issue would likely be re-examined.

The city also is keeping a close eye on what the state Legislature does, Adams said.

During the most recent session of the Legislature, Sen. Jim Jensen of Omaha proposed water fluoridation for communities over 1,000 residents. He hoped it would cut down on dental costs paid annually by Medicaid.

The bill advanced through committee, but did not come up for debate before the session ended.

National health officials are aiming to get 75 percent of the nation's population on fluoridated water systems by 2010.

Maas said water fluoridation today is as important as ever. The average person eats more, he said, increasing the risk for dental decay. Older people also are taking more medications today, which cause saliva changes and is another factor in dental decay.

But to fluoride opponent Gertrude Bredehoft, who worked alongside Trollope, just plain water is fine by her.

"What God put in the water - that's the perfect formula," she said.