Compass: Time to send the anti-fluoride crusaders back to the fringe

The Anchorage Assembly has again provided a public forum for anti-fluoride extremists to share their propaganda. I grow very tired of this small minority of radical activists that promulgate pseudoscience and fear. I am growing increasingly concerned that they have somehow pulled the wool over the eyes of otherwise intelligent Assembly representatives. As leaders for our community, you have an obligation to use research-based evidence along with the opinions of experts in the field to make rational decisions for the municipality.

Experts who make up the following organizations have stated repeated and unequivocal support for water fluoridation: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Public Health Association and the World Health Organization. I am curious why you think their position statements don't matter?

We know that those resistant to the evidence of the benefits of fluoride generally possess poor scientific literacy. Taking personal opinions as truth they promote pseudoscience and fear. This is not a victimless crime. Should you choose to remove fluoride, (or entertain a ballot initiative amongst uninformed citizens who vote to remove it), you are making a decision to deliver children into pain and suffering. Oral health workers around the state can attest to the high rates of painful and unnecessary dental procedures children must endure in communities lacking this simple public health intervention. There is no mystery; we've studied this for decades. Community water fluoridation is a safe and effective intervention that prevents disease. Cruelly and significantly, the burden of dental disease is disproportionately borne by those least able to advocate for themselves: poor children.

In all honesty, I am not sure any of you have the type of political career that could survive this type of misguided decision that causes many of our most vulnerable to suffer. And, if the suffering of children does not get your attention perhaps the increased costs for Medicaid associated with a spike in childhood dental caries would?

Every time this issue arises, scores of dedicated, hard working and highly educated health professionals must drop what they are doing to defend science against ranting extremists and conspiracy theorists. This is an enormous waste of resources and distracts educated professionals and government employees from focusing on the real issues facing our communities. Please, let's put my hard earned tax dollars towards problems that actually exist, like the quality and safety of our schools, the problem of homelessness and drug addiction in our communities.

Jennifer Meyer is a registered nurse, an assistant professor of allied health at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development, and a public health instructor at UAA.