BROOKSVILLE - When Brooksville City Council held a water fluoridation workshop in May, Council member Joe Bernardini said he had some more things to think about before making up his mind.
"Right now, I would be in favor of fluoride," Bernardini said earlier this week during a regular Council meeting. "But I would like to place it on the ballot and see if the people who elected us are in favor."
As soon as Bernardini informally announced his stance, Mayor Lara Bradburn, a staunch opponent of water fluoridation, jumped in, questioning the "sudden change" of Bernardini's mind.
"You were steadfastly, without a doubt, absolutely 100 percent against water fluoridation," Bradburn said.
Council members Frankie Burnett and Joe Johnston III have identified themselves as in favor of fluoride. Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn, who works as an account manager for a pharmaceutical company that sells fluoride products, has said he believes there is a better way to treat cavities and tooth decay than adding a "toxic substance" to the community's drinking water.
During the May fluoride workshop, Bradburn presented research that supported her stance that the practice of water fluoridation is dangerous. Bradburn cited fluoride as the cause of her own thyroid condition. Dentists, educators and public health officials spoke in favor of fluoride as a safe and affordable way to fight tooth decay, especially in underserved communities.
The City of Brooksville added fluoride to the water from 1986 through 2011. The issue will be revisited as budget talks start in July.
Since the public hearing, letters supporting and denouncing fluoride have been sent to Bradburn and City Council members, and accessed by Hernando Today in a public records request.
On June 21, oral health manager Lauren Barone sent a letter on behalf of the American Association of Pediatrics in support of adding fluoride back into Brooksville's water as a "safe and effective way" to prevent cavities.
In a reply on June 22, Bradburn wrote "I would be interested to know if the acedamy (sic), being an acedemic (sic) institution, reviewed any of the peer-reviewed studies or nationally-endorsed reviews of studies showing the harmful effects of fluoridation. If so, which ones?"
The AAP wrote back the institution did not know of any "credible scientific reports that show harmful health effects of water fluoridation at the recommended levels to prevent tooth decay (.7 mg/L - 1.2 mg/L)" and that the only side effects are cosmetic.
Bradburn replied again on Monday, writing: "From your response, I take it you and the AAP are unwilling to examine the myriad of studies done by some of America's most prestigious universities and scientific organizations demonstrating the harmful effects of fluoride and water fluoridation."
Bradburn wrote she believed the AAP has "willfully chosen to ignore peer-reviewed documentation" and she feels none of the AAP's statements can be relied upon.
During Monday's meeting, Bradburn expressed disappointment the AAP does not consider studies done by researchers at Harvard, Yale and Cornell as credible.