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Debate continues over fluoride in water in Jonesborough

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The fight over fluoride in water in Jonesborough continues, even though town leaders have already made up their minds.

Earlier this year, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to take fluoride out of the water system. But on Thursday night, people on both sides of the issue met to voice their concerns.

Organizers said they wanted to hear from both sides. And they want all meetings between town leaders and either group - for or against fluoridated water - to be open to the public.

Organizers were also hoping town leaders would be there. But neither the mayor nor any of the aldermen showed up.

Soon, water in Jonesborough will not have fluoride. That's alarming to health officials like Christen Minnick, director of the Washington County Health Department.

"After a community stops fluoridating their water, we tend to see people get cavities, have an increase in dental disease about five years after that," Minnick said.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe did not return our call, but we spoke to him shortly after the board made its decision, back in February.

At that time, he said a survey sent to water customers showed a majority wanted fluoride removed. Ron Myers is part of that group.

"If people saw what they're adding to the drinking water, nobody in the world would support it," he said.

Myers is concerned that a water analysis report shows the fluoridated water contains other chemicals that may be harmful.

And Myers said this is not addressing the main issue. He said if people are concerned about cavities, they should stop letting their kids eat candy.

"The fluoridation issue is misdirected and because of that, they totally ignored the direct cause of the problem," Myers said.

Myers and other parents also expressed their right to choose and know what's in the water they use.

But retired dentist Lon Reed disagreed.

"It's shortsighted and we're about to make a big mistake especially for our children," Dr. Reed said.

He said there are more positive effects of fluoride for both children and adults.

The CDC recommends a ratio of 0.7 milligrams per liter as a safe and beneficial amount of fluoride to drink.

"Which when we do fluoridate our water sources for our communities, that's the level that it's being fluoridate at," Mennick said. "It's not above that."

So those in favor of fluoride hope town leaders are listening, and will take another look at the issue.

"I just can't believe that they discount a professional in the field," Dr. Reed said. "They've heard from people in health department, dentists and people telling them that they're making a mistake. And it just doesn't matter. They've got their minds made up."

Those who support the board's decision hope it withstands. Supporters also want to see any future meetings on the issue be open to the public.

According to the CDC, Tennessee ranks 17th in the country with 88% of its population having fluoridated drinking water. Virginia ranks 7th with 96%.

The CDC also said fluoride in the water reduces tooth decay by 25%. And for every dollar spent on the process, it saves $38 in health care costs.

"Dental cavities is an infectious and contagious disease. We are committed to getting rid of 100% of it. Water fluoridation is the closest thing to a magic bullet that we currently have," Dr. Johnny Johnson wrote in a statement to News 5. Johnson is the president of the American Fluoridation Society.

When we spoke to Mayor Wolfe in February, he said the town will use $12,000 it expects to save from not fluoridating the water to buy toothpaste and fluoride rinse for children in need.

A town water system employee confirms fluoride is still in the water. But he expects it will be filtered out in about two weeks.

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