Facing mounting pressure, Pritchett announces public forum on Mims water fluoridation

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Amid mounting pressure from local health experts, Brevard County District 1 Commissioner Rita Pritchett announced Thursday she would hold a public forum on water fluoridation in Mims.

The “community conversation” is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 21 at the Cuyler Park Community Center, 2329 Harry T. Moore Ave. in Mims.

“The conversation is for those with interest in fluoride in the water,” Pritchett said in a news release. “I want to let everyone hear everything, and I also want to give the residents of Mims a chance to talk about it.”

The event gives residents and experts a chance to weigh in on a May 4 vote by the County Commission allowing Pritchett to halt the addition of supplemental fluoride at the Mims Water Treatment Plant in her district.

County utilities ended the fluoridation program at the county-run facility May 13, impacting about 8,000 Mims residents.

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The decision occurred without advance notice on the meeting agenda, catching Mims residents and local experts by surprise and allowing the public no chance to comment before the vote.

At the time, Pritchett, who also is the County Commission chair, justified the request with weakly supported claims by critics of water fluoridation that the naturally occurring mineral — added to county and municipal water supplies to prevent tooth decay and related conditions — can have negative health effects.

Health experts say adding fluoride to drinking water at the levels recommended by public health agencies is safe and effective at preventing a range of oral health conditions.

The practice is supported by every major national health group, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pritchett’s announcement comes amid mounting pressure to reopen the Mims decision for public debate.

The Brevard County Dental Society, with backing from the CDC, the ADA and the Florida Dental Association, launched a preemptive campaign last week, encouraging the city of Titusville, just south of Mims, to continue fluoridating its water.

Titusville leaders said at a City Council meeting Tuesday — heavily attended by dentists and health experts, including Brevard County Health Director Maria Stahl, who spoke in favor of fluoride — that they had no plans to end the practice.

After the meeting, Brevard Dental Society President Dr. Angela McNeight said the group was planning to turn its attention back to Mims, and had been encouraging Pritchett and other commissioners to bring the issue back for debate.

“We’re really excited and thankful that Commissioner Pritchett is looking for input from the Mims community, and also from the dental community and the medical community,” McNeight said of the announcement Thursday.

Members of the dental society — which represents over 160 Brevard dentists — plan to present at the meeting, along with local pediatricians, neurologists and psychologists, “to really show the medical side and the science side,” McNeight said.

“We’re hoping that Mims citizens come and that they are able to listen to both sides of the fluoride conversation, and really be able to look at the resources that are available and the research that has been done” on fluoride, she said.

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