It’s been awhile since Bob Stewart showed up at a Rolla City Council meeting to ask the council to direct Rolla Municipal Utilities to stop fluoridating the water supply.
I hope he’s all right. Although I don’t care one way or the other about fluoridation, I have to admire Bob for his tenacity.
He’s the Lone Ranger of anti-fluoridation. He is fighting the chemical enemy that the dentists and parents see as a friend, because it keeps down the rate of dental caries (cavities). Only one other person has spoken up against fluoridation. That was George Howell. I guess he’s the Tonto of anti-fluoridation.
I got to thinking a few weeks back about fluoridation and how it came about. I called City Clerk Carol Daniels and got the correct month and year that it was voted in: May 7, 1968.
An old copy of the paper from the next day showed the vote to be 703-491 in favor of fluoridation. Two wards, Ward 1 and Ward 4, did not support it. The margin in the other four wards was sufficient to carry the proposition.
"Fluoridation had been a dead issue in Rolla until only a few weeks ago," the paper reported. "At that time, a group of Rolla dentists led by Dr. Carl James succeeded in having the fluoridation questioned placed on the ballot."
There was opposition to adding the chemical compound to the water. It was led by Dr. Walter Schrenk, retired chairman of the chemistry and chemical engineering department at UMR, now Missouri S&T.
As is the case today, there were letters to the editors from both sides published in the paper in the days and weeks before the election, as well as some ads from the organized opposition and the pro-fluoridation dentists.
The passage by the electorate made me wonder if the council today has the authority to do what the Lone Ranger and Tonto of anti-fluoridation want. I called City Administrator John Butz and told him that my keen legal mind suggested that only a vote of the people of Rolla could rescind that order.
Butz’s keen legal mind is keener than mine. He patiently explained that the council would have the authority to act, because the 1968 vote was a non-binding referendum. "I’m certain it would not require a vote," he said.
The council could vote to cease fluoridation or it could vote to direct RMU to lower the level of fluorine in the water. A check of the Internet shows there are cities choosing to lower the level, and there are cities choosing to quit fluoridation altogether.
"The government is proposing that the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water be set at 0.7 milligrams per liter of water," CNN reported a couple of years ago. "The recommended range has been 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter since 1962. The EPA will determine whether the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in water will also be lowered."
Should the city direct RMU to lower the level to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water?
I don’t think so. At least not yet. There’s no clamor from Rolla parents or the local dentists to lower the level.
Voters in 1968 approved fluoridation by a significant margin. In the years since, there has been no organized effort to end it. Been no effort at all, even disorganized, as far as I know, except for Bob and George. And George seems to be focusing his campaign on emails to the newspaper rather than appearances before the council.
The council has been doing the right thing by listening to Bob politely and then moving on to other discussion. Until there is a major uprising from parents and dentists to cease fluoridation or lower the level to 0.7 milligrams per liter, that’s what the council should do the next time Bob shows up to speak.
And there will be a next time, I’m sure.