Jonesborough BMA votes to remove fluoride from water

Jessica Fuller • Updated Feb 14, 2017 at 11:09 AM

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to remove fluoride from the town’s water supply after a 3-1 vote at its monthly meeting Monday night. 

The final decision came several months after the issue was first presented to the board and the public rose in defense of both sides of the issue. After a survey, a series of public comments and a lot of consideration, Aldermen Chuck Vest, David Sell and Jerome Fitzgerald voted in favor of removing fluoride from the town’s water supply.

The motion, put forth by Vest, called for the removal of fluoride from the supply in 120 days in order to gain approval from the state to have non-fluoridated water and implement alternative plans for fluoridation and for town staff to begin communications to implement alternative fluoridation plans in Jonesborough schools and local charity organizations.

Alderman Terry Countermine voted against Vest’s motion after saying he would like to see a compromise before moving forward with the removal of fluoridation.

The board did discuss implementing fluoride rinses in the school system, in places that help the needy and at the Jonesborough Food Pantry to ensure everyone who wants it has access to fluoride as a means to prevent oral disease and tooth decay. The program would use the approximately $12,000 the town currently spends per year on fluoridation, but Countermine said he would rather see those plans in place before removing the fluoride from the water.

“These people need help,” Countermine said. “My point is, every one in this room has probably seen the dentist once or twice a year to have their teeth cleaned, I feel very blessed to be one of them. I would like to compromise. I don’t think there’s an urgency to do this this month. ... That plan should be in place, in my opinion, before (the fluoride is removed.)”

Mayor Kelly Wolfe invited two community members to present each side of the issue one more time before the board entered discussion. Jay Jarman argued in favor of removing fluoride from the water supply, arguing that fluoridating the water is not the most effective way to administer topical fluoride care. He argued that ingesting fluoride does not have any benefits and that fluoride can be administered through toothpaste, mouthwash, tablets and dentist visits.

“I was unable to find any peer-reviewed scientific studies that shows any benefit to ingesting fluoridated water,” Jarman said. “In fact, the opposite is true. There are many peer-reviewed medical studies that show problems caused by ingesting fluoride from public water supplies.”

Dr. Allen Burleson, a dentist in the community, argued that removing fluoride puts underprivileged children and families at risk who may not have access to another source of fluoride. Poor families, he said, can’t afford trips to the dentist or proper tools for dental care.

“My concern is the underserved or disadvantaged, the people who are vulnerable,” Burleson said. “We can go to the dentist, buy toothpaste, buy a toothbrush, get fluoride, that’s not a problem. It’s the ones that don’t have access to that, and we have a great health department, but it’s the people who are out in the county, a lot of times even in the (town) of Jonesborough, that’s the only fluoride they get.”

Read more on fluoride:

Fluoride may be pulled from Jonesborough water.

Jonesborough residents encouraged to fill out fluoride survey preceding public hearing.

Jonesborough residents have say on fluoride.

As fluoride debate begins, business as usual at treatment plant.

Local dentist: Jonesborough BMA shouldn't base fluoride decision on misinformation.


Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected]. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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