Wichitans for Healthy Teeth fight to add fluoride to the water supply. Friday the group submitted more than 11,000 signatures to the city council. The petition asks the council to adopt a fluoride ordinance or to put the issue to a public vote.
The petition will be sent to the Election Commissioner's office to verify the signatures. If the petition contains valid signatures from 25% of registered voters who participated in the last city election, action will be required. The city council would either have to pass the ordinance or call for a public vote.
Wichitans for Healthy Teeth says adding fluoride to the water will help prevent tooth decay for citizens. But the city council is still hesitant to make changes and the opposition doubts the health claims all together.
"Nine cents, this is the additional monthly cost per household to add fluoride to water in the City of Wichita," said dentist Dr. Lucynda Raben. It sounds cheap, but gaining support from the city council is easier said then done. Some council members are still hesitant about a request to add the element to the water supply. But Dr. Raben and other supporters say the health benefits are undeniable.
"It's one huge step in reducing the decay of the people in Wichita. It's proven science as we said. We have nearly 70 years worth of communities in this country that have done this and have had a decrease in decay in those communities," Dr. Raben said.
The opposition doubts the science. "Sometimes those health benefits are way overrated," said chemist and former KU professor Albert W Burgstahler.
While a majority of health organizations endorse fluoride, Burgstahler says he drank 5-6 quarts of fluoridated water every day and got sick. "I know for a fact, it was verified within me. I had a low thyroid function that was reversed from getting away from fluoridated water," Burgstahler said.
Despite his claim, Wichitans for Healthy Teeth hope the city council will take their petitions into consideration. "The next step is to be supportive of our city council who labor over these decisions. They have significant number of issues they have to deal with every single day. This is just one more piece but we will support them and educate them in any way possible," Dr. Raben said.
Earlier this summer Eyewitness News asked council members about their stance on adding fluoride to the water. At the time, Mayor Carl Brewer, Lavonta Williams, and Pete Meitzner said they were undecided. James Clendenin, Jeff Longwell, and Michael O'Donnell said they were leaning against it. And Janet Miller said she fully supports the idea. There is no timeline for if and when the city council will discuss the petition submitted to them.