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OP-ED: Pell City needs to add fluoride back to its water supply

Dr. Robert L. DeShazer

Dr. Robert L. DeShazer

Approximately 10 years ago, the then-Pell City administration removed optimal fluoride supplementation from the Pell City water system.  

This was done without notice to residents or without the required notice to the Alabama Department of Public Health. In fact ADPH sites still show Pell City's water supply as fluoridated.  

The annual Water Quality Report shows zero fluoride, and a call to the Utilities Department will confirm this.

As a practicing Pell City dentist at the time fluoride was removed, I met with the then-mayor and city manager to express my dismay at the action. After explaining the proven benefits of fluoride and oral health, I was assured the supplementation would resume.   

This didn't happen. Meetings with the next administration were met with surprise and astonishment that our water was not fluoridated. Everyone presumed our system was up to date. 

Some progress was made towards researching what needed to be done to restart fluoridation. Our present city manager was responsible for this, and I appreciate his efforts. However, once initial steps were made and a possible plan determined to restart fluoridation, all progress stopped.

Emails indicated our city government was not interested in pursuing this issue. A direct presentation made approximately three years ago at a council meeting elicited polite smiles and nods and no action.

January 2020 marked 75 years of public water fluoridation. The CDC lists water fluoridation as one of the Top Ten Public Health Achievements of the Twentieth Century. 75% of the U.S. population and 78% of Alabama residents have access to optimally fluoridated water (2016 data).

Dental decay is a serious disease affecting children and adults. It can lead to pain and trouble eating as well as other medical problems and costs.  Missed school and work is common.  

Fluoride can reduce decay by 25--40%. Estimates are each $1 spent on fluoride supplementation saves $35 in future dental costs. Adding fluoride to a public water supply costs pennies per day per resident. 

I think my point is obvious: Pell City residents deserve the safe benefits of a fluoridated water supply.  

During this election time, I urge residents to question candidates for mayor and city council about their thoughts on this important public health issue.  Public concern and constant questioning can force this issue. 

If you are concerned you must let our mayor and council know. There are costs involved in a fluoride restart, but grant money should be available.   Pell City spent close to a million dollars for a splash pad that benefits a relatively low percentage of Pell City children/residents five months per year. How can we not spend pennies per day for a proven health benefit that works 24 hours every day all year and lasts a lifetime.

Robert L. DeShazer is a retired dentist.

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