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Crawford County to vote on whether to add fluoride in drinking water this November

Mark Wyzalek with Macon Water Authority says around 95% of water systems in Georgia have fluoridated water

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ga. — Fluoride started being fed into water as early as the late 1940s and early 1950s and became more common in the 1960s and 70s. 

But now, Crawford County voters will decide this November if they want it in their drinking water.

Crawford County water superintendent William Patton says during a routine sanitary survey in April of this year, the state Environmental Protection Division said Crawford County had to start feeding fluoride into the water or allow citizens to vote on a referendum. 

The main benefit is that fluoride reduces the chances of tooth decay. 

Patton says he's personally against feeding fluoride into the drinking water, but it's ultimately up to what the people decide. 

"It's just one more acid, one more chemical that you're adding to the drinking water. There are studies. Studies go as far as people want them to go, that there's thyroid problems, Alzheimer's, things like that, all related the feeding of fluoride, but there's studies that say there's not," Patton said.

Mark Wyzalek with the Macon Water Authority says they've been using fluoride in water for decades and have found it to be a plus for people living in the area. 

Wyzalek says 95% of the state's water systems have fluoridated water. 

Credit: Crawford County Board of Elections

Since the referendum question was added to the ballot, misinformation surrounding fluoride in drinking water has been shared on social media.

It mainly concerns false claims about the health effects fluoridated water has on humans. 

"I think it's irrational. It's not proven fact," Wyzalek said. "Science and the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Public Health, there's been extensive studies about the benefits of fluoride. When fluoride is added in the amounts that we do, it's very, very beneficial. It does not cause any harm." 

Wyzalek says fluoride is particularly beneficial for children.

"The most important thing is when you're young as a child, when your teeth are forming, that's when you're most prone to having dental cavities. Your teeth and bones are forming at that time. To have adequate amount of fluoride will prevent the dental cavities," Wyzalek said. 

Wyzalek says it's specifically helpful for children who live in poverty who don't have access to sufficient dental care and hygiene. 

Fluoride's health benefits have been recognized by many health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But Patton says we have more resources available now compared to when counties and cities began using fluoride.

"[Fluoride is] added to toothpaste. Dentists are much more readily available. It's available to some extent in whole milk," Patton said.  

Wyzalek added that fluoride is also "cost effective" when it comes to promoting dental health. He says it costs Macon Water Authority 53 cents per customer per year to feed fluoride into the water.

Patton says the decision will affect drinking water in Crawford County and the city of Musella. The city of Roberta has fed fluoride into their water since the 1970s, according to Patton.

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