The city of Phoenix has decided to continue fluoridating city water after hearing testimony for and against the practice on Tuesday.
The heated meeting lasted more than two hours with experts for and against fluoridation giving testimony. In the end the four council members on the subcommittee, Daniel Valenzuela, Thelda Williams, Michael Johnson and Jim Waring, did not move to change the city’s fluoridating practice.
On March 21, city staff was asked by the Finance, Efficiency, Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee to explore current opinion on adding fluoride to drinking water. They presented their findings during Tuesday’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee meeting with testimony from two experts: Dr. Howard Pollick, a health sciences clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry; and Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
After their 37-minute presentation those opposed to fluoridation were given 30 minutes to testify, which was donated to Dr. William Hirzy, a former EPA scientist and current chemistry professor at American University in Washington, D.C. Hirzy brought up many questions about the chemical used to fluoridate Phoenix’s water. He said the chemical is not pure and contains small amounts of arsenic.
Other professionals from the dental community took 15 minutes to urge the council to continue fluoridating the city’s water to help protect the dental health of residents.
The council members did ask questions to clarify whether or not the chemicals contained arsenic and staff was encouraged to research the price the city is paying. In the end none of the council members spoke up to change the city’s practice.
“I believe strongly that the medical community and professional health people have presented sufficient evidence for me to believe there is a public health benefit to this,” Councilwoman Williams said during the meeting. “I understand there are always some consequences to every public health decision, however, I think the benefits in this case override the negative aspects of this. I know people get very emotional on these types of subjects.”
The meeting was disrupted by members of the public who felt equal time had not been given to both sides of the issue and they had been mislead by the council. Jody Clute, who organized a public debate the week before the vote to give the public more information on the subject, expressed disappointment with the subcommittee’s decision.
“You cannot talk about this in 90 minutes,” Clute said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “If you would have pushed this forward to council we would have had adequate time… You’re telling me to listen to you over my endocrinologist… What reasonable person would do that? In 90 minutes we just decided the fate of every person in Phoenix? That just seems completely irrational.”
The city has been fluoridating its water, adjusting levels from .3 parts per million (ppm) to .7 ppm, since 1990. Phoenix pays $582,000 for the chemicals used to fluoridate the water.
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