Kalama voters are deciding whether to keep fluoridating their water.
The Kalama City Council in July put the issue on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. While the decision to fluoridate water is the council’s the council has said it will abide by voting results.
Kalama has fluoridated its water for about 50 years. Advocates say it is a proven, save way to fight tooth decay, and they quote national health authorities who call fluoridation one of the last century’s major advances in public health.
Opponents say fluoride is a toxic substance that can cause health problems such as thyroid, kidney and neurological problems and that populations without fluoridated water have seen a similar decline in cavities.
Councilman Dominic Ciancibelli said the issue probably would not have been brought up had Mayor Pete Poulsen not done so himself.
“The interesting thing is that before the mayor brought up the idea, … we had never been approached by anyone to take fluoride out of the water,” Ciancibelli said.
Poulsen, who opposes fluoridation, was unavailable for comment for this story
Ciancibelli called opponents of fluoridation a “fringe group.”
“I don’t think there will be an awful lot of weight carried (by them in the vote),” he said.
Pam Whittle, a member of an advocacy group called Fluoride Free Kalama, said 50 years ago fluoride could only be obtained by prescription, and that should be a red flag for fluoride supporters.
“It is a prescription item that we’re mass-medicating without consent,” she said.
Ciancibelli supports fluoridating the city’s water because he says it helped prevent cavities in his family.
“With all three of my children, the youngest being 35 years old now, they’ve had perfect teeth with no cavities,” he said.
Whittle said it’s difficult to change people’s perceptions and unwillingness to inform themselves about changes in information about fluoride.
“It’s a hard conversation mostly because it’s a newer concept to think about removing it,” she said. “And change is hard. Really it comes down to the fact that people need to take the time to educate themselves and consider that the information (about fluoride) that we’ve been given has changed.”
Lauren Kronebusch covers education and the city of Kalama for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.