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Fluoridation wins at the polls in seven U.S. cities

November 12, 2014

By Stacie Crozier

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Voters in six U.S. cities chose to retain community water fluoridation and another city opted to restart fluoridation through ballot referenda on Nov. 4. The fluoridation votes affect some 73,000 residents nationwide.

"Of the eight communities that had initiatives on their ballots on Election Day, water fluoridation was supported by the public in seven by an overwhelming margin of 2-to-1 or better," said Dr. Valerie Peckosh, chair of the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee and a pediatric dentist in Dubuque, Iowa. "I am optimistic that as the ADA works to increase public awareness on the benefits of water fluoridation that victories will only increase and help us reach the Action for Dental Health 2020 goal of having 80 percent of the U.S. population receiving fluoridated water."

In Michigan, 68 percent of Boyne City voters cast ballots in favor of restoring fluoridation. Boyne City first fluoridated after voters approved a measure in 1973, but in May, city commissioners chose to discontinue fluoridation without voter approval. A group of concerned citizens and health professionals, Citizens United for Dental Health, collected enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot and launched a grassroots education campaign aimed at providing voters with reliable information on the benefits and safety of community water fluoridation.

"This vote revalidates our citizens' desires to continue to protect our community's dental health," said Carl VanDomelen, the group's organizer. "This has been a true victory for our citizens and a clear message to our City Commission."

Voters in Bronson, Michigan, also approved a measure by a 2-1 margin to continue fluoridation after city commissioners decided to put the issue on the ballot.

Two thirds of voters in Healdsburg, California, a city of more than 11,000 in Sonoma County, approved retaining fluoridation. The city has been fluoridating since 1952.

Salina, Kansas, voters also approved retaining fluoridation by a 2-to-1 margin. According to local news reports, the city's dentists and physicians led the charge against an anti-fluoride movement.

"We are very excited to see Salina continue water fluoridation as it is an important public health benefit for our community," said Dr. Allison Lesko, president of the Salina Dental Society. "We were very pleased on how the medical and dental community came together to work on this issue and also thankful to the community for their decisive vote. This has been a tremendous effort lead by the local Keep Fluoride Campaign Committee to organize, and their hard work is appreciated."

Kalama, Washington, voters also approved continuing fluoridation. The southwest Washington town has fluoridated its water for about 50 years and in June won the American Water Works Association People's Choice Award for best tasting water.

Georgia voters in two communities about 150 miles south of Atlanta chose different results in ballot referenda. Richland, Georgia voted to re-start their fluoridation program after a break of approximately five years, but the Unified Government of Webster County (Preston and Weston, Georgia) voted to discontinue fluoridation.

Voters in Albany, Wisconsin, approved continuing their village's fluoridation program 76 percent to 24 percent in a non-binding referendum.

Other fluoridation actions

Also in Wisconsin, in an action unrelated to November elections, the Madison Water Utility Board affirmed is support for fluoridation Oct. 28 after hearing more than two hours of public comment. Madison has been fluoridating its water since 1948. The board plans to next review its fluoridation policy in 10 years.

On Oct. 13, the Valparaiso, Indiana, city council officially accepted the report of the Valparaiso Fluoride Commission recommending continuing fluoridation. Empowered by the city's utility board to prepare a report and make a recommendation, the commission spent several months holding meetings, listening to testimony and reviewing the latest science.