A chemistry professor who is against fluoridated water got a much warmer welcome at the Sedgwick County Commission than a pro-fluoride expert who spoke there two weeks ago.
Commissioners Jim Skelton and Richard Ranzau aggressively questioned and argued with Bill Maas, a former public health director with the Centers for Disease Control, who was brought to Wichita to help present the case for fluoride in mid-October.
Wednesday, Skelton expressed agreement with Paul Connett, a chemistry professor, author of an anti-fluoride book and leader of the Fluoride Action Network. He also invited Connett to give his opinions on genetically manipulated food, which Connett opposes.
"You will not see a mouse mate with a strawberry," Connett said. "And there are very good reasons for that."
Skelton said he wished he could show clips from the movie "Dr. Strangelove." In the cold-war era Peter Sellers comedy, a US Air Force general orders his nuclear-armed bombers to attack the Soviet Union after becoming convinced that fluoridated water is a communist plot to sap America’s "precious bodily fluids."
Connett told the board that the CDC is wrong about fluoride being either safe or effective. And he said the national laboratory’s recommendations have unduly influenced local health officials to favor fluoride.
Connett said the CDC recommendations on fluoride come from only a small unit within the mammoth complex of laboratories in Atlanta.
But he said it takes a brave soul for a health official to challenge the CDC’s recommendations on fluoride.
Among fluoride supporters, "protecting this policy has now become more important than protecting the health of the people," he said.
Wichita voters will decide whether to fluoridate their water in Tuesday’s election.
The question was brought to the ballot by a petition drive led by a coalition of doctors and dentists who say it would reduce costs and pain from preventable tooth decay.
The county has no role in the vote, but opened the door to commission meetings becoming a fluoride forum when the county Health Department posted an online fact sheet about fluoride based on CDC information.
Fluoride opponents pressured county officials to remove the flier from the website, which has been done.
Mark Gietzen, a leader of the anti-fluoridation campaign, went before the commission Wednesday and demanded that the county publish a correction in The Eagle or other media.
The commission took no action on Gietzen’s request.