The Fayette County Board of Commissioners took what was described as a “first step” toward potentially allowing residents to decide whether they want county water to be fluoridated.

The county government has been discussing the fluoridation issue recently, and had interns study the issue over the summer. Fluoridation has drawn some criticism, with doubts about its efficacy for maintaining health and further concerns about potential health risks from consumption of fluoride.

As it stands, the county cannot unilaterally decide to remove fluoride from its water supply, as the state currently mandates fluoridation.

As a “first step” to changing that, Commissioner Randy Ognio proposed a resolution which was passed at last Thursday’s meeting. The resolution is urging the state legislature to change its policy on fluoridation to allow for local voters to decide whether they want fluoridated water as a part of a ballot referendum.

Currently, the state requires a “petition of 10 percent of the registered voters in such political subdivision who voted in the last general election,” in order to put the matter on the ballot. The resolution adopted by the county urges the legislature to change this language to allow counties to “simply call for a referendum for their citizens.”

“I just thought this would be a first step,” Commissioner Ognio said.  “I know it’s not removing the fluoride, but we want to do [this] legally and this would be a first step to get headed that way.”

Brown noted that if the legislature did respond and change the law, there would not be a change in fluoridation policy unless local voters voted for it.

“This simply gives the citizens the ability to vote up or down on fluoride,” Brown noted.

The resolution adopted by the commission stated that many county residents use well water with no added fluoride and “no evidence has yet to be provided where those drinking from a well have more tooth decay than those who do not.”

The referendum also noted a “number of Western European countries have elected not to fluoridate their drinking water; nevertheless, there is little statistical difference in tooth decay numbers compared to the U.S.,” and that the Centers for Disease Control said in 1999 that the primary benefit from fluoride is through “topical application,” not from being ingested.