The city of Durango will continue to fluoridate its water, with final election results showing the ordinance that aimed to stop the program failed overwhelmingly.
Election totals showed about 1,735 people voted for an ordinance that would require the city to stop adding fluoride to its water system, far behind the some 3,094 voters who supported keeping the system in place.
The issue was heatedly contested leading up to Tuesday’s election, with supporters and opponents of water fluoridation disagreeing with the health benefits of the program.
“We are pleased that the local residents have chosen to continue to support community water fluoridation, bringing one of the top-10 public health achievements of the 20th century into the 21st century,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health.
“It’s a highly effective way to ensure all our residents have an opportunity for better health, particularly our underserved population that has limited access to health care.”
Sherrod Beall of Healthy Kids Healthy Durango, a pro-fluoride group, reiterated a similar statement. “I just want to thank the voters of Durango who stood up for the well-being of our community,” she said.
This winter, a petition that called for the city of Durango to stop adding fluoride to its drinking water circulated around town, causing a vitriolic debate over the health benefits of the program.
While advocates of community water fluoridation say it has immeasurable oral health benefits, particularly for low-income residents, opponents say the program is a form of forced medication, and called into question the impacts of consuming too much fluoride, as well as the source of the substance.
Jim Forleo, a local chiropractor who was one of the most vocal anti-fluoride organizers, said the effort, which raised about $4,500 for the campaign, was over-run by big money interests. The pro-fluoride side raised nearly $22,500, mostly from Healthier Colorado, a Denver-based non-profit.
“Big money pushes a lot of these things,” Forleo said. “But we’re happy with what we accomplished. We changed the conversation, and the reality is, we are not done.”