Debate over fluoridization of water supply flows onto campus

Fluoride is a word in the mouths of several Joplin residents.

The Joplin City Council voted 6-2 on Sept. 19 to allow fluoride to be added to the Joplin city water supply.

The measure will cost $3.66 per person per year.

“It was actually a unanimous decision that putting fluoride in the water supply is the right decision,” said Bob Harrington, director of the physical plant and city councilman.

The two members of the council who voted against the measure said they would like to see the members of the community vote on the issue, even though they themselves were for the fluoride.

Councilman Gary Shaw said he had read through materials on both sides of the issue.

“I thought that since it (adding fluoride) was so controversial, it should go to the people,” Shaw said.

Shaw said though he himself thought fluoride was a good idea, he did not expect everyone to share his view.

Jon Tupper, mayor pro-tem, agreed with Shaw and was the only council member to vote against the measure during the first reading.

“This is not what I would call an emergency health issue,” Tupper said.

Tupper said the issue for fluoridating the water was put on a survey more than a year ago. He said the results showed citizens wanted to vote on the issue.

“I think it’s important for everyone to make their own decisions,” Tupper said. “If you are going to ask someone their opinion, you should listen.”

Shaw and Tupper, however, said they both support the decisions of the council.

Harrington said the decision to add fluoride was based on support the idea received from nationally-accredited associations and councils.

“I think the city council did what we thought was best for the city and its citizens,” Harrington said.

He said he also based his decision on the cost of sending the measure to a vote by the citizens. To place the issue on a ballet, the city would have to pay out $30,000.

Harrington said he thought it was irresponsible to spend the money with unanimous support of the council and

the support he researched.

“I would be surprised if anyone had read any more information, pro or con, on the issue,” Tupper said.

Some members of the community are not as supportive of the measure.

Dr. Anne Marlowe, professor of English, is an opponent of the issue.

Marlowe, who has chemical sensitivity, said she is in strong favor against the measure.

“I think it is an unethical decision on the part of our council,” she said.

Marlowe said she thinks the addition of fluoride would cause health problems for many area residents.

“We’re already in a lead-exposed area,” she said.

She also said she has studied toxicology for 12 years and has seen studies relating to osteoporosis, arthritis and other illnesses associated with fluoride.

“Most people get too much [fluoride],” she said. “I think people will be getting much more than they bargained for.”

Harrington said the fluoride will be added at one part per million to the water supply.

He said the amount would not be enough to affect anyone’s health.

Those opposed to the measure have a chance to sign petitions, but the deadline for the verification of signatures is Friday, when the results of the petition will be posted.

Harrington said 5,188 signatures, or 15 percent of registered Joplin voters, are needed to take the issue to a vote of the people.

If the signatures are not obtained, the city council may extend the deadline by 10 days.

“I appreciate their (the opposition’s) concerns,” Shaw said. “I heard them. That’s why I took the position I did.”

There is no set date for the beginning of the process of adding fluoride to the water supply. The process will continue indefinitely until a vote is made to stop it.