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Palm Beach Commission OKs fluoride in water

By Anthony Man
sun-sentinel.com

January 11, 2005, 2:45 PM EST

By midday Friday, water consumed by more than 450,000 customers served by the Palm Beach County Water Utility will contain fluoride. The final OK came Tuesday morning from the Palm County Commission.

Flipping the fluoride switch comes after years of contentious debate by county commissioners.

It wasn't until the summer of 2003, after County Commissioner Jeff Koons took office and joined forces with county health director Dr. Jean Malecki that proponents could win enough commission voters to add the substance to the water.

Malecki and a slew of local, state and federal public health and dental authorities argued that fluoridation was a dirt cheap but powerfully effective way to prevent tooth decay.

Opponents have never relaxed their concerns.

They regard fluoridation as a dangerous chemical with the potential for serious health effects.

Even though commissioners approved fluoridation almost 18 months ago, it came up again on Tuesday. That's because opponents managed to convince commissioners last year to hold off on actually adding the substance to the water until they got results of one more federal government review of fluoride's safety.

That review, scheduled for completion last fall, still isn't done. It's now not scheduled until mid-May, and even then County Administrator Bob Weisman said it isn't expected to offer definitive conclusions about the safety of fluoridation.

With the county's water plants reconfigured and the Water Utility ready to start adding fluoride, Weisman's team brought the issue back to commissioners for a decision.

Two of seven county commissioners - Tony Masilotti and Mary McCarty - voted to delay the start of fluoridation. The other five voted to proceed.

Gary Dernlan, director of the Water Utility, said it would take just a few days to begin the fluoridation. He said it would start Friday morning.