Commissioners halt water fluoridation in southwest Florida county

Community had been fluoridating its water supply since 1985


There is only one word to describe why the Collier County commissioners decided to terminate fluoridation of the area’s water supply, said Alexis Diaczynsky, D.D.S., president of the Collier County Dental Association.

“Politics,” she said.

Collier County commissioners unanimously agreed in February to end the addition of fluoride in the county's public drinking water system after nearly three hours of often-impassioned debate at the commission meeting.

The commissioners cited “health freedom” as a reason, pushed by a phalanx of anti-fluoridation activists.

The community, encompassing Naples and located in southwest Florida, had been fluoridating its water supply since 1985.

“With the little time we had to educate and inform the commissioners about water fluoridation, we did our best to refute the bogus science that was being handed to [the commission]by the anti-fluoridationists,” said Dr. Diaczynsky. “We got involved because we know how important it is to have something equitable in place like fluoridation that can reach all of the individuals in our community. We live in a community of all spectrums, rich and poor. The beauty of fluoridation is that it reaches all of these individuals.”

American Fluoridation Society President Johnny Johnson, Jr., D.M.D., a Florida-based pediatric dentist who works closely with the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee, coached the local contingent on how to combat the rise of anti-fluoridation activists, said the commission passed ordinances last year — one called The Collier County Health Freedom Bill of Rights — that dealt with COVID-19 related issues to “protect” the residents against having to follow mask mandates and other requirements.

The ordinance stated that numerous county residents have expressed their concerns to the board of commissioners over “the federal government’s and the World Health Organization's attempts to impose public health mandates and limit an individual's health care freedoms and rights.”

A related ordinance said, “It is unlawful in any circumstance to mandate any medical protocol, experimental drug, medical procedure, medication, device, biological agent, toxin, radioactive exposure or medical treatment on any patient or citizen in Collier County.”

“The commissioners contended that they would be breaking their own law if they did not follow the ordinance,” Dr. Johnson said. “It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to vote this way.”

Dr. Diaczynsky said the argument from the commissioners is that fluoride is a drug being mandated on citizens.

“Fluoride is not a drug or a medicine; fluoride is a mineral,” she said. “There have been over 100 court cases arguing fluoride is a drug. In the court of law, fluoride has never been found to be a drug or medication. Citizens also have a choice whether to drink tap water, bottled water or to install a reverse osmosis system into their homes.”

Dr. Diaczynsky was upset about the arguments of anti-fluoridation advocates at the commission meeting. Fluoridation of water with the tiny amount used to help save children from a lifetime of decay and possible pain will ultimately will help them with their overall health, she said. Studies comparing decay rates in children from areas of fluoridated water versus non-fluoridated water have proved this, she added.

“Fluoridation is safe and has been heavily studied,” she said. “People can find anything on the Internet and believe it without digging deeper to evaluate the validity of the statements. Many research studies that the anti-fluoridationists present do not adjust for confounding variables or limitations. These often include studies being done at extremely high levels of fluoride. The optimal level is 0.7 ppm and some studies have been done at levels three to four times the recommended amount.”

April Donahue, executive director of the Collier County Medical Society, spoke on behalf of the CCMS board of directors at the commission meeting to echo the comments offered by her Florida Dental Association colleagues, asking them to vote no on the removal of fluoridation from our county water.

Fluoridation to the recommended level is not just an important method for good dental health, but for good overall health,” she told the commissioners. “Fluoride, which is not a medication but a mineral that exists naturally in all water supplies, is one of the best tools for reducing the risk of tooth decay. Decades of research show the safety, efficacy and overall cost-savings of fluoridated water in keeping communities healthy and reducing the need to treat dental disease.”

In an interview with ADA News, Ms. Donahue said that one of the Collier County Medical Society’s core values is advocacy.

“We support our members by sharing information with our lawmakers on issues important to physicians, such as public health initiatives that will help their patients live healthier lives,” she said.

Dr. Diaczynsky is fearful of the future.

We are bound to see the rate of dental cavities rise, especially in children,” she said.

But Drs. Johnson and Diaczynsky are not giving up.

“We are coordinating forces with the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, University of Florida Naples Children and Education Foundation Dental Center, and local pediatricians who are oral health advocates to meet with the commissioners and determine a plan to help the children,” Dr. Diaczynsky said. “We will also work to elect to office commissioners who will reinstate water fluoridation in Collier County.”

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