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Months-long debate ends with fluoridation levels reduced

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

“The great Milwaukee fluoride debate is over,” reported Don Walker in his July 24 story for the city’s Journal Sentinel newspaper.water-drop

Walker and his colleagues at the newspaper had been writing about the battle since May, when city Alderman Jim Bohl launched a vocal campaign to rid the city’s tap water of fluoride.

Bohl argued that the practice of community water fluoridation was antiquated, unhealthy and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We are endangering the health of our children and citizens by adding poison to our water in a failed effort to reduce tooth decay,” Bohl wrote in a letter to the newspaper.

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Public health officials and state and local dental groups disagreed. They stood up for the practice, which has been hailed by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century.

People are fighting over fluoride in other places too, says Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign (Editor’s note: Pew Charitable Trusts supports AHCJ’s core topic coverage of oral health.). “Some of them are small towns whose decisions don’t create big headlines,” Gehshan said. “A coalition in Wichita, Kansas, is backing a proposal to start fluoridating the city’s drinking water, while a city councilman in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is leading an effort to end fluoridation there,” she added. Continue reading