To the editor:
The Board of Directors (Board) of the Greater Pine Island Water Association (GPIWA) wants to assure all of the membership that the decision to raise the fluoride level in water to optimum effective levels for reducing tooth decay was made after a full and extensive review of the research and endorsements related to fluoridation. The decision was not taken lightly, nor made in haste. GPIWA staff and Board members expended countless hours researching both the pros and cons of water fluoridation before the Board decided to accept a $63,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health. The grant money will allow the GPIWA to have fluoride levels in Pine Island's water at the optimum levels to help our members (both young and old) to fight tooth decay. The Board is fully aware of the positions that have been presented over the past six weeks by some association members who oppose the fluoridation of the Pine Island water. GPIWA staff and members of the Board have spent many more hours researching the issues presented by these members after the Board's decision was made to ensure full understanding of the concerns expressed by these members. This subsequent research has shown no evidence-based reasons for changing the original decision or delaying the current schedule for implementation. After weighing out the information available and/or presented to us, the Board's collective position remains as follows.
n Fluoride, as a nutrient, reduces tooth decay. Based on the evidence provided by the GPIWA staff and Board's own research, the Board (as elected representatives of the association members) sees this as an opportunity for all of our members to have the same benefits from fluoridation as enjoyed (a) by the approximately 500,000 people in the surrounding neighborhoods of Lee County, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach and the city of Cape Coral, (b) by the customers of 273 other Florida community water systems, and (c) by the more than 179 million people in the United States (including the residents of 42 of the 50 largest U.S. cities).
n The Board considers the endorsements from more than 100 federal and state agencies, professional associations and other organizations that are strongly in favor of fluoridation and are supported by peer-reviewed research as evidence of the benefits and safety of fluoridation. The endorsements include those from the Center for Disease Control (that proclaimed fluoride to be "One of the Top Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century"), the U.S. Public Health Service, the Florida Department of Health, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the Amer-ican Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Associa-tion, the National Kidney Foundation and the World Health Organization (as well as many other agencies and organizations).
n Extensive studies by recognized scientific organizations of cities and localities that have 60 or more years (three generations) of experience with fluoridation continue to support the merits of fluoride enhancement in water systems and in the dental health benefits. As an example, Grand Rapids, Mich., was one of the first major cities to fluoridate.
n Courts have ruled that fluoride is not a medication but rather a nutrient that is actually found naturally in some areas (for example Lee County).
n The fluoride used to enhance drinking water systems is not a toxic industrial waste. The product that will be used in the GPIWA water meets the stringent standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ansi.org) for drinking water chemicals (ANSI-61), as inspected and certified by Underwriters Labora-tories, Inc.
n Fluoride enhancement of the water system is not expensive. The grant provides funding to pay all of the costs for the first two years. After the first two years, the estimated cost is less than $0.50 per member per year.
Taken in total, it is for these reasons and others yet to be stated, the Board has directed the GPIWA staff to move forward with the fluoride enhancement program. The Board continues to be comfortable with the decision to fluoridate the Pine Island water with the expected benefits of this to the association members now and in the future.
For the Board of Directors,