Barring an unexpected change on Friday, Brevard County residents who receive their water from Mims Water on the north end of the county will not have community water fluoridation (CWF) restored.
Commissioner Rita Pritchett discussed the topic following the public comment section of Thursday’s zoning meeting, during which several members of the medical community in Brevard County made a final public pitch for the restoration of the fluoridation system.
What You Need To Know
- Community water fluoridation was halted for Mims Water in May
- 64% of those who responded to Commissioner Rita Pritchett’s survey said they wanted CWF to resume for residents in the Mims area
- Commissioner Bryan Lober said if Pritchett ever changed her mind, he would vote with her; no other commissioners weighed in Thursday night
She argued that because a super majority of Mims water customers did not ask to have it back, fluoridation was off the table.
“I would’ve agreed to do it if I’d had a strong support, even though I still would’ve had some problems with it in my heart,” Pritchett said. “But it just didn’t pan out, guys. I didn’t see it and all the work you guys did to get people to do it, they just did not respond.”
Following the halting of the CWF process in May through a unanimous vote of the Brevard County Commission, Pritchett’s office received many comments from people, both for and against fluoride, that said the voices of the community needed to be involved in the process.
She announced during a community meeting in June that she would send out a survey with the July water bill that asked Mims Water customers if they wanted CWF to resume. She later added that a super majority (or 66%) of all Mims Water customers would need to respond affirmatively if they wanted the fluoride back.
Effectively, a water customer not responding was tantamount to a “no” vote.
According to the numbers stated by Pritchett during the meeting on Thursday, 770 water customers out of 3,440 total customers asked to restore CWF or a little more than 22% of all water customers.
However, according to the numbers provided by Pritchett’s office, only 1,196 water customers returned a survey stating their opinion one way or the other. That meant that more than 64% of those surveyed and counted by the District 1 office metric supported CWF.
Pritchett said that to her, everyone had ample opportunity to hear about the issue and weigh in.
“Please note, I sent two letters, a news letter, I sent a postage-paid survey card to send back saying that they must vote ‘yes’ and mail this back to me, if they wanted it put back in the water,” Pritchett said. “It has been in the newspaper every week for two months. I know everybody read the paper. It’s been on the news TV. I posted on Facebook. I had a huge community response of people saying they didn’t want it.”
Prior to Pritchett’s comments, several members of the dental community weighed in to try and persuade the commission to change its mind and addressed some previously made comments.
“For the claim that community water fluoridation is ‘mass medication,’ there have been 108 lawsuits brought against community water fluoridation and not once has it been ruled as ‘mass medication,’” said Dr. Angela McNeight, an orthodontist and current president of the Brevard County Dental Society.
She pointed to the database established by FLUID (Fluoride Legislative User Information Database), a policy tool originally created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now run by the Network for Public Health Law in partnership with the University of Maryland Carey School of Law along with support from the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and the American Fluoridation Society.
Later in the meeting, Pritchett challenged that assertion and claimed that those in the medical community were wrong.
“A medication is anything that’s used to treat an illness and whether it’s considered that in the medical field, public perception sees it as that. So, you kind of have to push through that persona as well,” Pritchett said. “The profession that I work in with accounting, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, we call it a duck. So, it looks like a medication.”
McNeight and others who spoke brought a collection of letters of support from organizations like the American Dental Association, the Oral Health Section of the American Public Health Association, the CDC, the Florida Department of Health and the Brevard County Medical Society.
All of them offered their full-throated support for CWF.
The Brevard County Medical Society said in its letter, in part:
“The amount of fluoride present in fluoridated community water systems is minuscule and safe for all individuals, regardless of age, race, gender or health. While there is a small, minority of the population that opposes the implementation of community water fluoridation, no credible national scientific or professional organization opposes the practice.”
During his chance for comment on the subject, District 2 Commission Bryan Lober argued that those speaking in support of CWF didn’t cite their statements of fact about the effects of CWF and said therefore, he couldn’t determine their credibility
“For instance, we heard from Dr. McNeight that fluoride toothpaste isn’t the same as fluoridated drinking water. Basically, a high-dose exposure isn’t necessarily as effective as, I guess the implication was, that a prolonged low-dose exposure,” Lober said. “You may be right. I don’t know. But to say it without citing it or telling me where you formed that conclusion, what evidence, what empirical data led you to form that conclusion, I don’t necessarily believe or disbelieve it. I don’t know.”
In the letters sent to commissioners prior to Thursday’s meeting, there were several studies cited, including a list of 25 references provided by the CDC alone.
One of the letters from Rockledge-based endocrinologist Dr. Rita Jain noted that in her 25 years of practice she has “not seen consistent findings by any leading experts to show that fluoride adversely affects the thyroid or other endocrine organs in any clinically significant manner.”
Karen Curry, a life-long Mims resident and pastor, said she was frustrated by the process and argued that this act ran counter to some of the work being done in Mims.
“It’s a little frustrating especially being that we just established a new organization to improve the quality of life and do some community development in Mims,” Curry said. “It seems like as soon as we’re starting to look at doing some things in that vein, now we’re looking at something that would reduce the perceived value of living in that community.”
Pritchett said that because she didn’t see strong enough support for CWF from Mims water customers that it will remain out of the water supply moving forward.
“I believe that’s the will of the people with everything in my heart,” Pritchett said.