Correction: Coert Olmsted's name was misspelled in some versions of this story.
FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks City Council voted 5-1 Monday to ban additional fluoride from Fairbanks’ drinking water.
Ordinance 5849, prohibiting the addition of fluoride to community water systems, was introduced by Mayor Jerry Cleworth on May 23 after recommendations made by the Fairbanks Fluoride Task Force. The task force was created by the City Council to study the fluoridation issue and included experts in the fields of chemistry, geochemistry, microbiology, medicine and dentistry.
Councilwoman Emily Bratcher cast the only no vote.
Bratcher pointed out the task force recommended the ban even though experts such as the American Dental Association, The Alaska Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support the use of fluoride in public water supplies.
“I don’t feel comfortable voting yes,” said Bratcher.
Fairbanks water contains natural fluoride levels of 0.3 parts per million, and city utilities increased that to 0.7 ppm.
The vote came after more than an hour of pubic testimony, most of it in favor of passing the ordinance.
The reasons for opposition to fluoride varied.
One woman maintained that fluoride was used by the Nazis to sterilize people in concentration camps and make them docile.
Many people pointed out that fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash is available in stores, while others said fluoride should not be added to drinking water without the consent of the public.
Coert Olmsted quoted a prominent pharmacologist as saying that fluoride has toxic effects if taken internally.
“There is no way to control how much a person drinks,” said Olmsted, pointing out the possibility of accidental fluoride overdose because of something as simple as thirst.
A blonde woman holding an infant drew applause after she cited the task force report stating that higher fluoride puts non-nursing infants at risk.
“It’s harmful for non-nursing babies. Harwyn here is not a non-nursing baby — he’s a heavily nursing baby and momma has to drink a lot of water to keep up with his demand.”
The original language of the ordinance was amended to state the ordinance would be effective July 1. The original start date was January 1, 2012, a date intended to give Golden Heart Utilities time to purge the water system of fluoride. Mayor Cleworth stated the utility company notified the city that it would be able to remove the fluoride in the space of several days, though they weren’t sure what they would do to adjust the change in pH levels that would result from the fluoride removal.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590.