Fluoride could be coming back to the water in Wellington, but the village wants to hear from residents first.
The naturally occurring element has been proven to fight cavities and tooth decay, but opponents claim unknown long-term effects and call it “mass medicating” the population that can’t choose whether to add it themselves.
Wellington began fluoridating its water in 2000, but in 2014, the village became the first Palm Beach County municipality to pull the practice after a 3-2 vote of council. Now, mayor Anne Gerwig is the only councilperson still on the board from that 2014 vote, and she voted against removing it.
The council is giving both sides a month to prepare arguments before potentially making a decision at the June 28 meeting, where they will also be looking for resident input.
“We’re letting everybody know that it will be a discussion and that people who have an interest in it should come forward and participate,” Gerwig said at a council workshop.
If the council decides to add fluoride to the water, village staff still has the necessary equipment. Some upgrades to the facility could be combined into a larger project for next year.
Many government health organizations — including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Water Works Association — support adding fluoride to water in responsible levels. Wellington operated far under the allowable limit when it used to add the element to the water.
But some groups such as the Fluoride Action Network and various local health officials think it could have some unknown long-term side effects like problems with teeth, bones and kidneys. Excessive fluoride has been proven to cause some browning of the teeth.
In the years that Wellington was adding it to the water, there were no reported problems.
“We’ve fed fluoride into the drinking water successfully for many, many years without incident,” Village Engineer Bill Riebe said, adding village staff will not make a recommendation unless requested to by the council.
Some areas such as West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Palm Beach County also have added fluoride to the water. Others like Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens do not.
Wellington has posted additonal information including pros and cons to its website at wellingtonfl.gov/fluoride.