Mayor Korthuis vetoes Lynden fluoridation ban - Salish Current
July 3, 2024
Mayor Korthuis vetoes Lynden fluoridation ban
Salish Current staff

Lynden’s mayor cited medical, financial and community comment factors in his decision to veto a council vote to discontinue use of fluoride in the city’s drinking water. (Sulfur, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

July 3, 2024
Mayor Korthuis vetoes Lynden fluoridation ban
Salish Current staff

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Ordinance to ban fluoride in city’s drinking water narrowly passed 4-3

The Lynden City Council on July 1 passed an ordinance to ban the fluoridation of the city’s drinking water. The contentious issue had been debated for months by the council and was approved by a vote of 4-3. (“In Lynden, faucets turn amid a water fluoridation debate” Salish Current, March 22, 2024) 

Following the vote, Mayor Scott Korthuis vetoed the measure.

In a message to the council explaining his veto, Korthuis wrote:

Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis

“After considering the merits of Ordinance 24-1689, I am vetoing it for the following reasons:

  1. We had 95 public comments during our hearings. There were 51 in favor of keeping fluoride, 42 against and 2 neutral comments. That’s 55% in favor of keeping fluoride in our water. If you take out all of the non-Lyndenites from the comments, then we had 69 comments. Again, the number of those who wanted to keep fluoride was higher at 37, compared to 31 to take it out with 1 neutral. This is a 54-46% split.

    Of note to me is that the retain fluoride group is bigger. It is highly unusual to get citizens to comment on keeping something. Knowing that more citizens in favor of keeping fluoride took time to come to us and comment, in my mind, speaks to a much larger group in our community in favor of keeping fluoride.
  1. During the comment period we did not have any local medical doctors speak against fluoride. If fluoride is so bad for one’s health one would think the doctors in the area would be lining up to get it removed. We also did not have anyone who spoke that had any specific disease directly related to fluoride.

    Then let’s look at the demographics of our community. I will compare us to Ferndale as they are similar in size to our community. Ferndale has 22% of its population over the age of 65; Lynden has 33% in that demographic. If fluoride was as bad as it has been made out to be, you would think we would be dying from it at an earlier age, lowering this demographic. We also compare favorably with Bellingham, which has 31% of its population over the age of 65 compared to our 33%. We have more aged citizens in Lynden; we’re not dying young.
  1. The financial cost to our community would be significant. Here are statistics that I gathered on our local communities:
    table of dentists in small cities per population
    Lynden has significantly fewer dentists compared to Ferndale, a city that is roughly the same size as Lynden. But if we compare to the other small cities, you can see that Lynden has roughly half the dentists per 10,000 people. If fluoride is removed from our water dental costs will increase for our citizens. Assuming a conservative number of 5 more practices needed in the community and the net revenue for a typical practice to be $1.2 million, then removing fluoride would add dental expenses to the families in Lynden to the tune of $6 million per year. Even if my calculations are optimistic and we assume half of these costs, it would save our community families $3 million per year. I just can’t let this health and finance burden be put on our citizens.

We heard testimony that implied fluoride is available to the general public for low or no cost. People can then put it in their water. This may be true, but we also know from public testimony that a dentist can look at a patient’s teeth and determine if they are from Lynden or some other area of the county. Obviously people do not use fluoride even if it is low-cost or free. I do not think our citizens will be any different than other citizens. Dental health will degrade once fluoride is removed. The only way to guarantee better oral health and generally healthier citizens is to maintain fluoride in the city water supply.

Now an additional couple of comments related to this issue.

Over the past month the remove fluoride crowd has been visually and verbally pleased with the direction. The retain crowd has been basically silent. I would hope the remove group can take the final decision, whatever it is, with the same demeanor and courtesy. I would hope they can be just as pleasant as the retain fluoride group was, whatever the final outcome is. Everybody involved is truly trying to do the right thing

If this veto is successful, then I urge the council to reconsider Councilor Wohlrab’s proposal and give citizens who need fluoride-free water an option.”

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