Friday , 18 August 2017

Fluoride in McKinney’s Water Supply Contested, Debated at City Council Meeting

By Ben Lane, TSB Staff

There was no resolution to the issue of fluoride in McKinney’s water, despite a discussion of more than two hours Tuesday night in McKinney’s City Council chambers.

For the second time in three weeks, people filled council chambers and the crowd spilled out into the surrounding hallways. Nearly 30 people spoke either in favor of the continued addition of fluoride or in favor of discontinuing the fluoride addition, per the resolution brought by Councilman Ray Ricchi. However, the resolution was tabled to allow the North Texas Municipal Water District to provide council with more data.

The members of the council, who ultimately took no action, did hear presentations from the North Texas Municipal Water District, concerned citizens, dentists, members of the medical community, and several students from McKinney Boyd High School.

Ricchi’s resolution would have called for a formal request to be made to the North Texas Municipal Water District to discontinue the fluoridation of the treated water supply prior to its distribution to the public.

Included among the presenters was a six-member group from McKinney Boyd, who took it upon themselves to learn about the fluoride issue and address council members. After doing their research, they concluded that adding fluoride to water has more negative effects than positive effects.

There were many speakers who agreed with the students’ presentation, including Pam Wenzel, who led the charge to remove the chemical fluoride and convinced Ricchi to bring the resolution forward. Wenzel said, “Water is the most incredible resource we have. We’re not asking that we remove fluoride from the water. We just want the chemicals removed.”

Among the supporters of fluoridated water were several long-time dentists and representatives of the American Dental Association. They included David McCarley, Hilton Israelson, John Finley, Tammy Gough, Harold Simpson, Jerry Hopson, John Wise, Robert Neal and Arthur Nelson. McCarley told the council, “Maintenance of fluoride is of the utmost importance to dental health. More children have less tooth decay because of water fluoridation. For every dollar you spend on fluoridation, you save $38 in future dental care.”

Inside the chambers, several young people held signs stating that “Fluoride is Poison” and encouraged the council to “Vote No on Fluoridation.” Also, “98% of Europe Says ‘No’ to Fluoridation.”

After listening to the pros and cons in various proposals, council members took over the discussion and debated amongst themselves as to how to proceed. As it was Ricchi who brought forth the resolution, his comments were the best received by the numerous supporters of the resolution in the room.

Ricchi’s comments touched on the advancements in dental health that he sees as a reason to discontinue the addition of fluoride to the water. He also touched on an issue that seemed to strike a chord with many in the crowd. “The national government is trying to control my health. I don’t want the government controlling my health. It’s about choice. I want to have a choice,” Ricchi said.

Ricchi (pictured at right) also used a prop to highlight what he said was the naivety of ingesting fluoride and expecting that to protect one’s teeth. He held up a bottle of sunscreen and said, “It’s like drinking a bottle of sunscreen and expecting it to protect your skin.”

Despite Ricchi’s theatrics, it did appear that the other members of council were not inclined to agree with him. Roger Harris, David Brooks, Geralyn Kever and Don Day all stated their hope to continue the addition of fluoride into North Texas’ water. Travis Ussery stated his belief that the two weeks since this item was first brought to council’s attention was not sufficient time to come to a fully informed decision.

After all of the council members had their opportunity to weigh in, Mayor Brian Loughmiller laid out his views on the issue and appealed to both of the opposing sides. He clarified the nature of the request put forward by Ricchi and his supporters. “No one is saying that we should take the fluoride out. The issue at hand is the addition of the chemical fluoride. I don’t think either resolution addresses the real issue at hand,” Loughmiller said.

With that clarification and crystallization of the issue at hand, the tension in the room seemed to ease for those on both sides of the issue, who were literally sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Loughmiller continued, “What the water supply company really needs is a letter from their 13 member cities, not a resolution. We can formulate this letter rather quickly. We shouldn’t wait. I’m not comfortable with the one-paragraph statement. It’s more complicated than that. I want the public to understand that we will move forward. I just can’t do it in the form we have it in tonight, because that doesn’t address the issue.”

Absent by this point was Wenzel, who left before the council reached an agreement, seeming exasperated by the council members’ comments in opposition of Ricchi’s proposal.

After Loughmiller’s statement, the council tabled the resolution and requested further information from the North Texas Municipal Water District regarding additional data about testing of the water, existing fluoride levels, alternatives to the chemical fluoride currently in the water and the costs of those alternatives.

The motion to table the discussion until a city council work session on April 2nd was then passed unanimously by the council.

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