As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for a make-or-break TV debate focused on the struggling economy, tax policy and the national debt, Wichitans are prepping to debate fluoridated water.
Supporters and opponents of fluoridation will square off in a forum on public television and at a live event at the Central Library later this month. Wichita residents will vote Nov. 6 on whether to fluoridate the municipal water supply.
TV station KPTS has invited representatives from Wichitans for Healthy Teeth and Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation to participate in the program scheduled to air from 8 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18, said Pat Moyer, the station’s director of content, who will serve as moderator.
The program will feature two representatives from each group who will discuss their positions on the ballot initiative to add fluoride to Wichita water.
“The intent is to illuminate the issue and not have a fight,” Moyer said.
A second forum on fluoridation, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, will be held at noon on Oct. 23 at the Central Library, 223 S. Main, Wichita.
The TV forum will be the first time the two sides have shared a debate stage since Aug. 21, when the City Council decided to put fluoridation to a vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
The healthy teeth group, led by local dentists and pediatricians, gathered more than 11,000 signatures on an initiative petition that forced the council to either adopt fluoride as council ordinance or let voters decide.
In advance of the debates, the two sides have been previewing the case they’ll be putting before voters.
Via Christi Health, the city’s largest health-care provider, issued a news release counting the number of emergency-room patients who come in with severe tooth decay.
Between June 30, 2011, and July 1 this year, the hospital system treated 3,150 adults and 164 children for emergency dental conditions not caused by traumatic injury.
Robert Stangl, medical director for Via Christi’s three Wichita emergency rooms, said the rate of dental complaints is more than twice what he saw when he worked in emergency medicine in Kansas City, where the water is fluoridated.
“By the time we see them in the ER, there’s little we can do for them other than to drain the infection, put them on antibiotics and prescribe something for the pain,” he said in the statement. “And all too often, the teeth are not salvageable … Prevention is a much better approach to care.”
The anti-fluoride group held a news conference Tuesday to announce that it is bringing in a nationally known anti-fluoride activist and author, Paul Connett.
Connett is a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology from St. Lawrence University in New York and director of the national Fluoride Action Network.
He will discuss his research into the effect fluoride has on organs throughout the body, not just the effect on dental health, said Don Landis, a leader of Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation.
“Many of the studies (cited by advocates of fluoride) have not looked at the toxicology on the whole body,” Landis said.
Connett will hold a free and open seminar on fluoridation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Natural Grocers, 1715 N. Rock Road, Wichita.