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Fluoride survey of little use to Kalama officials

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KALAMA — City officials trying to decide whether to remove tooth-strengthening fluoride from the town’s drinking water won’t get much guidance from a recently completed public opinion survey.

The survey, based on responses to a questionnaire the city sent out with utility bills, showed that 53 percent oppose continued use of flouride, with 47 favoring it.

But the survey is non-scientific, and the results were close, so there’s not much of a conclusion to be drawn from the effort, City Clerk Coni McMaster said Thursday.

“We were hoping that maybe there would be a clear split,” McMaster said. “Now it’s going to be up to the council really to decide.”

The City Council will discuss the issue at its next regular meeting, 7 p.m. April 16 at Kalama City Hall. It uncertain whether any decision will be made then.

Kalama has added fluoride to its drinking water since the 1970s. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, according to the Center for Disease Control. Cowlitz County Health Officer Jennifer Vines called fluoridated water one of the “most important public health interventions in the last century.”

Good science” supports the safety of fluoridated water,” she said. “From a health perspective (removing fluoride is) really a step in the wrong direction.”

But some citizens have asked the city to reconsider its use, and Mayor Pete Poulsen is among those with concerns

He says only a small portion of fluoride mixed into city drinking water ever reaches children, who are supposed to be its primary beneficiaries. The city pays about $8 to $10 per day for fluoride, and most of it ends up down the drains as wash water, said Public Works Superintendent Kelly Rasmussen.

“We all know that there’s always negative and positive impacts to everything,” Poulsen said. He worries the mineral may have unintended health impacts on people other than children, especially the elderly.

McMaster said she has received numerous calls about fluoride since the Kalama City Council began gathering information on the topic in January. So the April 17 council discussion, she said, “could be a very lively meeting.”

Justin Pittman covers Longview and Kelso school districts, Lower Columbia College and Columbia County (Oregon) for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-2523 or jpittman@tdn.com

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