When it comes to water fluoridation, Snohomish will remain a town divided.
The Snohomish City Council has decided not to fluoridate the water the city supplies to the southern part of the city. Water for the northern half, supplied by Everett, will continue to be fluoridated.
The council had discussed the feasibility of fluoridating the city's water. But after residents' objections and claims of possible health risks, the council last week concluded it would not take any more steps to do so.
But Mayor Liz Loomis said the council might have decided differently had all seven members been present. Councilmen Chris Lundvall and Cameron Bailey were not present last week.
Everett pumps fluoridated water into the northern part of Snohomish, the area roughly north of 10th Street. Snohomish supplies water to the rest of the city from its own treatment plant on the Pilchuck River. The water has never been fluoridated.
The council began preliminary discussions about the issue after a resident asked Councilwoman Lya Badgley several months ago why their water was not fluoridated. The council had not examined the possibility of fluoridation in recent years.
Supporters and detractors of the issue both cited scientific studies to back their claims, said Dan Takasugi, the city's public-works director.
Some, such as the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, call water fluoridation "a safe, effective and inexpensive way to prevent dental cavities."
In fact, the agency regards the process as one of the great public-health achievements of the 20th century.
But some doctors say fluoridation could cause a host of problems, among them cancer, bone fractures and birth defects, Takasugi said.
It would have cost the city about $29,000 to begin fluoridation and an additional $5,000 a year to maintain it.
"It's not proven safe. So why bother doing it at the expense of the community?" asked Lea Anne Burke, a mother of two from the southern part of the city.
Councilman Doug Thorndike joined other council members in their decision against fluoridation.
"The anti-fluoridation critics brought a lot of information," he said. "We thought we'd heard enough differences of opinion that we agreed not to pursue it any further."
Thorndike said he did not want the council to carry the sentiment any further — specifically, to push Everett to change its fluoridation policy.
Despite siding with the decision not to fluoridate water in the southern part of the city, Thorndike sees fluoride in the same way he views vitamin D in milk or vaccines, he said. "I think fluoride is a good public-health benefit. I'm in favor of it."
Councilwoman Melody Clemans said she did not want to fluoridate Snohomish's water.
"I think there's enough concern out there both nationally and internationally that fluoridation really is a toxin," she said. "I'd rather rule on the side of being careful."
Badgley agreed. Although her initial reaction was that the city should have fluoridated water, she has since learned that there are many municipalities across the country and other countries, most notably in Europe, that are declining fluoridation, she said.
By not changing the city's water, "individuals can make their own choices," said Badgley, who lives in the southern part of Snohomish.
"That's what I do with my daughter, who's 7 years old," Badgley said. "She takes a vitamin tablet that has fluoride in it."
Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 425-745-7809 or email@example.com