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Regional News

Spokane City Council To Take Up Water Fluoridation Proposal Monday Evening

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Spokane City Council is scheduled to vote this evening [Monday] on a proposed emergency ordinance to inject fluoride into the city’s drinking water. The issue has reignited old debates about the public health benefits of fluoridation versus its perceived harmful effects.

Water fluoridation is an issue that seems to have suddenly reappeared in the public sphere this summer. But advocates such as Alison Poulsen say they’ve been studying it as a public health strategy for the last five years. Poulsen is the executive director of Better Health Together.

“If you look at the vast majority of folks who are supporting this, we’ve got a really strong majority of people who, one, want to do everything they can to make sure people are healthy and that this is a science-based solution for improving public health for everyone," she said.

Poulsen’s organization is one of nine health care and community groups that have pledged a total of $1 million to help the city pay for the infrastructure needed to add fluoride. That’s on top of $3 million pledged by Delta Dental’s Arcora Foundation.

The claim that fluoride is a science-based solution is disputed by some, including Spokane resident Jeff Irish. His group Safe Water Spokane held its own virtual forum last week. It presented a series of speakers who say emerging research shows that people, especially young children, who ingest too much fluoride can suffer neurological damage. They say there are many other sources of fluoride where the doses can be controlled.

“Fluoride topical is out there with toothpaste and mouthwash and all the other possibilities. Even your dentists, you can have them give you a fluoride treatment, but you don’t ingest that. You’re not causing any other health issues," Irish said.

Fluoride advocates say many people can’t afford to go to the dentist for those treatments. Water fluoridation, they say, is the most cost effective way to give them a way to improve their oral health and, ultimately, their overall health.

The city council will take public testimony Monday evening. But because the council is holding its meeting virtually, it’s asking that you sign up online between 3 and 5:30 on Monday if you want to speak. You can find the link to do that in the city council section of the city’s website.