ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Alaska’s largest city told officials last October to stop fluoridating the municipal water supply, only to reverse himself five hours later when informed that fluoridation was required under city code.
Mayor Dave Bronson stopped fluoridation on Oct. 1 while visiting the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility’s Eklutna water treatment plant, Alaska Public Media reported on Tuesday.
A statement from Bronson’s office confirming the stoppage came three days after the Alaska Landmine blog, citing unnamed sources, first reported Bronson’s directive.
The statement emailed by Bronson’s spokesperson, Corey Allen Young, said Bronson ordered the fluoride turned off after staff at the facility complained that it was harming them. According to the statement, the fluoride “burned the eyes and throats of staff who handled it.”
The U.S. government urged cities to add fluoride to water supplies to prevent tooth decay more than 50 years ago. Now, fluoride is put in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products as well.
Young did not directly answer an email from The Associated Press on Wednesday asking what training and safety equipment workers at the plant use when working with fluoride or if untrained workers handle fluoride.
The mayor’s statement sent Tuesday said Bronson was told by utility staff that turning off the fluoride was not against city rules.
Bronson decided to stop fluoridation and said he would investigate workers’ concerns, the statement said.
Young later clarified in a phone call to Alaska Public Media that the utility’s manager, Mark Corsentino, asked Bronson to have the fluoride turned off.
Bronson’s office later that day determined municipal code required fluoridation and told the utility to resume putting fluoride in the municipality’s water.
In the statement, Bronson’s office said the fluoridation was stopped for about five hours.
The Anchorage Assembly, which has been at odds with the Bronson administration since he took office earlier this year, is investigating.
“We have now begun the fact-finding process and I share the Mayor’s desire to investigate these concerns,” Chris Constant, the Assembly vice chair, said in a written statement.