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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

Anchorage Assembly to explore fluoride debate

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANCHORAGE — The Anchorage Assembly is responding to a push by activists to stop adding fluoride to the municipality’s water supply, but a proposed measure dealing with the issue is not the answer critics were hoping for.

The measure proposed by Assembly member Patrick Flynn supports continued fluoride use. If opponents want to press the issue they can seek a public advisory vote, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

“There’s a small group of people who were pretty committed to removing fluoride from our water system,” Flynn said. “They show up at Assembly meetings and speak during the public participation at the end of the agenda.”

The measure also notes that the Assembly has considered both sides of a long-running debate, but it doesn’t offer specific findings.

The resolution originally was set for quick approval Aug. 20. But the matter was shifted to a public hearing Tuesday night after Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson pushed for a community debate.

Fluoridation supporters include the American Dental Association, which says it’s a safe and necessary way to prevent tooth decay.

Critics question the safety of fluoride. Activist Daryl Lanzon said the city shouldn’t decide the use of fluoride because it is a medical matter.

In Anchorage, city law enacted in 1990 requires the municipal water and wastewater utility to add fluoride to drinking water.

Lanzon said Flynn’s proposed resolution doesn’t examine the science of fluoridation and it raises new questions. Lanzon would like to see a task force set up to tackle the issue, as was done in Juneau and Fairbanks before those cities banned fluoride in drinking water.

“What I am seeking, or what we are seeking as an organization if you want to loosely call us that, is due diligence,” Lanzon said. “Have we seen any research, have we seen any toxicology studies on sodium fluorosilicate, which is what they are using in the water supply?”

The public safety committee of the Assembly has been studying the issue. The committee chairman, Assembly member Paul Honeman, said the committee is close to coming up with its own resolution that would include findings citing testimony and research.

“Were taken a very measured approach — scientific, legal,” Honeman said. “The municipal attorney was tasked to go out and find where the municipal or government or public water systems have been challenged around the country and how have the courts ruled.”

Honeman said low levels of fluoride are added to Anchorage water, although he has questions about the type used.

“The fluoridation program, as we’re administrating it, is fairly safe,” he said.