CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners voted, 4-3, at an Oct. 4 work session to remove fluoride from water supplied by Utilities.
Commissioners Susan Latvala, Karen Seel and Ken Welch voted against the motion made by Commissioner Norm Roche.
Commissioners listened to testimony for and against for more than 3 ˝ hours before the vote. Among the reason cited to cease “medicating” the public via adding fluoride to drinking water was a possibility that residents may be receiving more than they should and the matter of public choice.
The commissioners who favored continuing adding fluoride pointed to testimony from the dental community that the practice was helping improve the dental health of the citizenry, especially children.
The commission did not discuss budget concerns, although some residents said the money could be better spent. Pinellas County spends almost $155,000 a year to add fluoride to water used by 700,000 customers served by Utilities. The cost per person is about 25 cents per person.
According to a chart from the state Department of Health presented by Welch show that 97 percent of the county receives fluoride in their drinking water. If fluoride were removed from Utilities’ supply, that total would go down to about 24 percent – less than any other urban county in the state.
Seel advocated reducing the amount of fluoride in the water from 0.8 milligrams per liter to 0.7 per recommendations made by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in January.
Commissioner Nancy Bostock said reducing the amount did not solve the problem of people not knowing exactly how much fluoride they were ingesting. In addition, there are concerns about the cumulative effect of fluoride over time – 50 to 60 years.
Pinellas County started adding fluoride to its drinking supply in 2004 and St. Petersburg added it in 1992. It has been added to drinking water supplies in locations in the United States for about 60 years.
The commissioners agreed that opinions were mixed and arguments could be made on both sides. Bostock said from what she had heard there was only one item on which there was common ground.
“Too much is dangerous,” she said. “Fluoride in the water is only once source. How do we know we’re not doing more harm than good?”