My Turn: Fluoride will lose; science has failed us

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

Pro-fluoride advocates are fighting a losing battle trying to convince the Juneau populace that it is wise to add fluoride to the city water supply.

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A few years ago, most Alaskans didn't know or question if or why fluoride was being added to their water supply. They just trusted that their water was safe to drink because they trusted their city officials who in turn listened to the local dentists.

Now in 2007, it doesn't matter how many medical and dental professionals band together and provide funding to sell pro-fluoride ads, radio spots and articles espousing fluoride's benefits to children's teeth. Times have changed, and there is far more information available to us about the world we live in, our place in it and our effects on it. People are beginning to question the health effects of the food they eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe. The days of allowing chemicals, like fluoride, to be added to Juneau's public water supplies are over. Public perception is turning against adding chemicals or drugs to public water supplies.

Alaskans regularly watch national news broadcasts about poor crop yields due to seriously diminishing aquifer levels and surface water sources. It is difficult to ignore the heat waves that cover most of the United States for longer periods of each year. As retiring Alaskans contemplate buying a home in the Lower 48, they find that there are new and increasing urban water shortages in many parts of America.

Standing in a checkout line in a local supermarket, Juneau residents in any given month, are bombarded with magazine headlines on diminishing and vanishing species, ice caps melting, glaciers retreating, fish species and bee colonies collapsing. We can see a retreating glacier in our own backyard. Water pollution is increasingly common place around the world and expansive dead zones are being identified in the oceans. There are leaders in many diverse fields of study, across the globe pointing to humans as the ultimate cause because of reasons that include our purposeful and inadvertent addition of synthetic chemicals to the world's water, air and food supplies. Humans appear to be single-handedly creating a world out of balance where our own survival has been the point of many books and films.

What does this have to do with adding fluoride to our city water supply? Public perception is that we are doing it again! We are considering re-adding fluoride to our clean water source largely because a group of single-minded medical professionals and their supporters want to add it for the select purpose of preventing tooth decay in children. They have steadfastly recommended this for years, learned of fluoride's benefits in western dental schools and point to science that states fluoride is good for this purpose.

Many Juneau residents don't really care about the science, because science has failed us so many times before. We still get cavities, cancer, thyroid disease and hip fractures, and we would like to rule out a fluoridated water source as a causal agent for a growing list of ailments attributed to it.

Science is only as good as the scientists who develop it, and we can all pick our favorite scientist who will say what we want to hear. But, natural, pure mountain fresh water is easy to understand and is being hailed as a highly valuable commodity in our community to all who visit here.

Pro-fluoride advocates will lose this one because times have changed. People who want to take fluoride or any other drug can do so at their own risk and Juneau residents know that. The good old days are forever gone.

• Katy McKerney is a Juneau resident.

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