By Christi Baron | Olympic Peninsula News Group
FORKS — The Forks City Council has halted fluoridation of city water, something the town had done since the 1950s.
The vote against fluoridation — three in favor of stopping it with one abstaining and one absent — was taken Monday night.
Voting in favor were council members Jeff Gingell, Joe Soha and John Hillcar. Council member Juanita Weissenfels abstained because she couldn’t decide on a position and Mike Gilstrap was absent.
In a strong-mayor form of government, the mayor — in this case, Tim Fletcher — does not vote except when the council is tied.
Fluoridation had stopped for several months because of equipment failure, but the main issue appeared to be health and individual rights.
Gingell, who had raised the question a few months ago, said fluoride occurs naturally in Forks’ water supply.
“It is already in our water table, no need to add more,” he said.
He also said he found no research showing that ingesting fluoride helps teeth.
“Topical fluoride is effective, but I could not find any benefit from ingesting it,” Gingell said.
Soha said he had grown up on well water and had no dental issues. He has a filter in his home in Forks to remove it.
“I don’t see it as a good thing,” he said, adding that city government should not force fluoride on people.
“Let residents vote,” said Nedra Reed, former mayor, in comments submitted prior to the meeting.
She noted that many families lack easy access to dental care and asked the council to consider them before making a decision to stop.
If cost was an issue, Reed said programs are available to assist the city with the equipment needed to add fluoride to the water again.
A comment submitted by the Bogachiel Clinic said there was medical proof that fluoride is beneficial.
“Please consider the long-term effect of your decision,” the letter said. “We urge the city to fluoridate the water.”
Pat and Mark Soderland said now is not the time to remove fluoride, saying it has improved public health since the 1950s.
“Consider this decision,” they said. “Don’t rush. To stop it now will erase our progress in public health.”
Letters from Reed, the Bogachiel Clinic and the Soderlands were among the four received in support of continuing fluoridation.
Six letters opposed it.
“Fluoride should be a personal choice. Don’t force it on the community,” Mary Dilley said.
Forks resident Heidi Oberfranc said fluoride hurts health rather than helps it.
“Fluoride has unacceptable risks and is a health hazard,” she said. “It is an unnecessary chemical in our water.”
She said both she and her husband have thyroid issues, which they believe to be caused by fluoride.
Molly Erickson said she felt that just the act of city employees having to handle the substance was putting their health in danger.
Sasha Folkner said she has found no evidence that fluoride makes for better teeth. Instead, it may adversely affect IQs, she said.
“Find other ways to fight tooth decay, she said. “Don’t place medicine in our water.”
Christi Baron is the editor of the Forks Forum, which is part of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].