Dallas City Councilman Sheffie Kadane still isn't sure Dallas should be fluoridating its water.
"Have you seen toothpaste that has fluoride in the toothpaste?" he asked Dallas Water Utilities Director Jody Puckett this morning. "And have you read the disclaimer on it that says 'Do not swallow, and if you do swallow this toothpaste, go get your stomach pumped'?"
"There is a disclaimer on the fluoride toothpaste only," he continued, his concerns unassuaged by Puckett's comment that toothpaste has 10 times the concentration of fluoride as Dallas tap water. "It doesn't tell you on the non-fluoride toothpaste."
Kadane's voice was a lonely one at this morning's Quality of Life Committee meeting. His colleagues all seemed to inclined to buy the argument that the public health benefits of fluoridation are sufficiently great and the $600,000-per-year cost is sufficiently small that the 50-year-old practice should continue. The proposal to stop fluoridation isn't quite dead, but it's dying.
Where, then, can the fluoridation-averse turn for acceptable drinking water in North Texas? Dallas and the couple dozen suburbs it supplies with treated drinking water are out. Ditto for Richardson, Plano, and the rest of the northern suburbs served by the North Texas Municipal Water District, as well as Fort Worth, Arlington, and other points west.
The answer is the Park Cities, which have never fluoridated their water and don't plan to.
"I've been here 27 years almost, and it has never come up during my tenure," says Rob McCormic, lab supervisor with the Park Cities Municipal Utilities District.
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To understand this lack of fluoridation, you first have to understand that Highland Park and University Park teamed up decades ago specifically to avoid buying Dallas water. This was 1938, long before fluoridation was an issue, but both cities felt that they were being overcharged. There were also some fears -- idle ones, according to an opinion piece in The Dallas Morning News at the time -- that Dallas would use its control of the water supply as a means of forcing annexation.
Three decades later, this meant that the Park Cities was faced with making its own decision on fluoridation. This became the topic of heated debate in the late-1960s, several years after Dallas voters approved fluoridation. HP officials wanted to have a referendum, but UP dragged its feet until two staunch fluoride opponents were elected to the water district's obscure governing board. After that, the discussion was essentially over, judging by the lack of further newspaper coverage.
Every now and then, McCormic says, he gets a call from a concerned citizen or a dentist who vow to revive the discussion but never actually do. Maybe, perhaps, the lack of routine dental care just isn't much of a concern in the Park Cities.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.