Repeal of Municipal Ordinance for Fluoridating Water Supply in Branson, Missouri

Background photo by J K on Unsplash with added Branson MO logo

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) applauds the utilities staff and decision makers of Branson, Missouri–as well as the local residents who spoke up–for taking action to protect the community and public employees from the serious risks posed by the practice of water fluoridation. 

On November 14th, the Branson Board of Alderman voted unanimously to repeal their municipal ordinance that allowed for the addition of fluoridation chemicals to the public water supply, effectively prohibiting the practice. This initial vote was followed by a second unanimous vote to ensure that the process for removing the chemical was conducted as quickly as possible, and this vote was followed by a verbal pledge from the mayor to sign the ordinance change into law immediately following the meeting.

The decision was a crushing defeat for the pro-fluoridation bureaucrats and lobbyists, like the Florida-based American Fluoridation Society, who battled with FAN to educate aldermen throughout the process. It’s a wonderful example of what happens when decision-makers take the time to hear from the community and conduct independent research. Aldermen studied the issue for months, toured the water treatment plant, spoke personally with treatment employees, held a special town hall event to hear from members of the public and invited experts, and solicited public comment for more than 90 days.

The city has now joined a growing list of over 300 communities that have rejected or ended fluoridation since 2010, many with the help of FAN, our professional contacts, campaign guidance, and educational materials. Branson is home to 13,000 residents, but it also serves as an entertainment hub for the state and a tourist destination that attracts an estimated 9 million visitors annually. 

According to the city’s Director of Utilities, Kendall Powell, Branson was paying $25,000 per year to purchase fluorosilicic acid, a hazardous waste product collected in the pollution scrubber systems of phosphate fertilizer plants. Powell said that disposal of the chemical would require a hazmat team and a hazardous waste disposal fee that would be more expensive than the chemical itself. He also noted at a special meeting that the city paid roughly $1,000 annually for personal protective equipment for water treatment employees due to the extreme danger the chemical posed to those tasked with handling it. 

The issue of whether to continue fluoridation was first raised by the alderman in June, when they decided to hold a special hearing and invite medical experts to provide testimony. City staff reached out to the Fluoride Action Network, and one of our board members, Dr. Bill Osmunson, who has nearly 50 years of experience as a practicing dentist, volunteered to present. Click on the image below to view his testimony and PowerPoint from the July 13th meeting: 

In case you’ve never witnessed what our opponents say at fluoridation hearings like this, I would also urge you to compare Dr. Osmunson’s presentation with those of a local pro-fluoridation dentist who appeared to read ADA-generated talking points, and the presentation by pro-fluoridation lobbyist Dr. Johnny Johnson of the American Fluoridation Society.  

Following the special hearing, Branson staff reached out to FAN again and requested studies and educational materials that could be helpful to inform the alderman. FAN provided these materials as well as recorded statements from leaders in environmental toxin research and toxicology. FAN also notified our supporters and professional contacts in Missouri and Branson, urging them to send emails and make phone calls.

At the November 14th meeting, the city’s utilities director revealed that they had received 69 emails from residents. He said, “11 were pro fluoride, 55 were against fluoride, and 3 did not take a stance but rather asked questions.”

Prior to taking a vote, several aldermen stated their reasoning for opposing fluoridation. Alderman Marshall Howell started by saying, “When we asked the individuals who administer [fluoridation] how they felt about it, it kind of got a little heavy to be honest with you mister mayor…they told us, ‘we want to make sure we take the proper precautions to go home to our families.'”

Alderman and practicing chiropractor, Dr. Ralph LeBlanc, said, “This is a poison that does have significant neurological effects on the health of people. With this decision tonight, we’re putting the minds at ease of employees. I’m going to say that even more importantly, you’re putting the minds of the residents of this community at ease. They will no longer have a concern that their kids could be poisoned by this toxin.”

Alderwoman Ruth Denham expressed concern about the support for fluoridation coming from the federal government rather than from the public, and the inconsistencies in the government’s support for fluoridation instead of additives that promote safe drinking water. She said, “There is grant money out there for fluoride to be put into water, and when I asked [water employees] the question of if they have ever gotten a grant for chlorine, the answer was an automatic, ‘no, that’s never been offered.’ That was pretty telling.”