Springfield city commissioners voted Tuesday to move ahead with a proposal that would allow voters to decide whether to add fluoride to the city’s water supply.
The vote Tuesday will allow the city to file the appropriate paper work with the Clark County Board of Elections putting the issue on the ballot, said Bryan Heck, deputy city manager for Springfield.
If approved, voters would decide in November whether to add fluoride to the water in Springfield and New Carlisle. Voters rejected similar proposals twice before, most recently in 2005. Charles Patterson, commissioner of the Clark County Combined Health District was not available for comment Thursday.
But Patterson told the News-Sun earlier this week that the proposed ballot measure is the result of a Community Health Improvement Plan developed in 2015 to determine what health-related issues are most important to the region. Patterson said the top complaint at the Springfield Regional Medical Center’s emergency room was visits from residents who complained about pain related to oral health.
He said adding fluoride to the water supply has proven to be a safe, effective way to improve oral health in other communties statewide.
In 1969, Ohio legislators passed a law requiring fluoridation of public water supplies that serve more than 5,000 people. But Springfield voters voted to become exempt from the law later that year. Because voters approved the exemption, the city has been required to seek voter approval before adding fluoride to the water.
Patterson said there has been some opposition to the measure int he past, but he’s more optimistic this year because the measure is receiving more public support from local community groups than in the past.
More than 32 percent of Clark County residents have had between one and five permanent teeth removed because of tooth decay or gum disease, according to the Community Health Assessment. Adding a small amount of fluoride to the water supply emerged as a cost-effective and effective way to improve dental health for thousands of Clark County residents, Patterson said.