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IDA GROVE, Iowa -- After nearly 50 years of putting fluoride in the city water supply, the Ida Grove City Council on Monday narrowly voted to halt the controversial practice.

In recent months, city leaders and residents debated whether fluoride in the water served as an effective means to reduce tooth decay or presented health risks to the public. About half of residents weighed in on the subject in a recent survey distributed through the city utility bills. A majority of respondents did not support continued fluoridation step, according to the city clerk's office.

In 1971 city officials started placing hydrofluorosilicic acid, most recently in liquid drops form, in the water supply for the Ida County city of 2,142. The council voted, 3-2, to end the practice, with councilmen Scott Tomlinson, Ryan Goodman and Gregor Ernst supporting the motion and councilmen Paul Cates and Doug Clough voting against it.

Starting last summer, Christie Van Houten, of Ida Grove, at council meetings, spoke out against fluoride, and on her Facebook page, shared numerous posts about the subject.

Van Houten linked to an online poll, which contains the snippet, "Water fluoridation is allowing government to mass medicate. This is what doctors can not do to individual patients. Put another way: Would you allow your neighbor to decide what medication you should ingest (even if it’s against your will)?"

The issue of whether fluoride should be in public water systems comes up periodically in Iowa and nationally. In January, a Hawaii lawmaker introduced legislation that would require the state's major public water suppliers to fluoridate drinking water, as a way to promote better dental health.

Ida Grove Water Superintendent Lon Schluter, at a July 2018 council meeting, said the city equipment used to drip in the liquid form of fluoride needed replacement, and noted that not all area towns add the chemical. The council that day unanimously voted to stop the practice.

The issue returned to the council in November, and, by a 3-2 vote, reversed their earlier decision. But fluoride was withheld from the water system while city officials waited for the updated equipment to arrive.

Clough said he subsequently educated himself on the topic, and learned the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta doesn't see any health risks associated with fluoride in water systems. Local public health officials, including from Horn Memorial Hospital in Ida Grove, in subsequent meetings urged the council to use fluoride.

In January, the council moved to ask the public to weigh in through the survey in the utility bills.

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County & Education Reporter

Government and education reporter.

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