Soldier in fluoride fight marches on
By ANNE GEGGIS
ORMOND BEACH -- Clutching a fat stack of papers -- most of them Web site printouts --Jim Schultz strode to the microphone in front of the Daytona Beach City Commission one evening last month, the highlight of his two-year campaign against fluoride.
Jim Schultz talks during a January City Commission meeting at Daytona Beach City Hall. What the medical establishment considers one of its greatest public health achievements, Schultz considers an insidious poison he must battle in city halls across Volusia County.
"Maybe you haven't been online. Maybe you haven't been listening," Schultz warned, his hands on the papers and his voice rising slightly. "Children are at risk when they receive fluoridation as infants."
Finally, he has made some headway. In January, the 59-year-old, work boot-wearing carpenter convinced the city of Ormond Beach to put a warning about fluoride for infants in its quarterly newsletter. And for the first time in his crusade, the issue was now center stage in Daytona Beach -- not just relegated to the general comment period of a meeting. Turning his attention toward the American Dental Association's and the state Health Department's insistence that fluoridating water has benefited society as a whole, Schultz continued, "They operate like a military machine. They don't use logic. They argue that it's the most economical way to improve the health of the most people. And sure it's cheap, it's the byproduct from a pollution scrubber. But don't trust me, I would defer to . . . ."
"Mr. Schultz, your time is up," interrupted City Clerk Jennifer Thomas . But Commissioner Dwayne Taylor wanted to hear more. "Are you saying that these people -- the Health Department, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) -- what they are telling us is all wrong?" Taylor asked.Schultz replied without hesitating: "You finally got it." If the commissioners got it, they didn't believe it, voting 6-1 to continue fluoridating Daytona Beach's water.Still, Schultz is continuing his crusade.
The Ormond Beach resident said he has never been so fired up about an issue as the one that's brought him to at least a hundred civic functions during the past two years. He's been on the sidelines of city parades, wearing signs with anti-fluoride messages. He's beseeched city governments from Port Orange to Ormond Beach. And he's bent the ear of anyone who will listen -- and many who would rather not -- talking about buried fluoride studies, documented fluoride side effects and the corporate interests that led to the nation's widespread embrace of water fluoridation in the 1950s.
A conversation with him will convince a listener that he's not exaggerating when he says, "I have enough where I can talk for days."
Before this, a candlelight vigil against the Vietnam War had been the extent of the Michigan native's community involvement. So his sudden civic activism has been hard on his wife of 30 years.
"It almost ruined our marriage," said Kay Schultz. "He was on the computer 16 hours a day. No matter where we went, that's all he talked about." The crusade began when Schultz began feeling arthritic. Alarmed he might not be able to continue as a carpenter, he started searching for a solution at a health food store and was asked how much water he customarily drank every day. Since he works outside often, the answer was a couple of gallons. "He (the health food store owner) said, 'Well, that's it,' " Schultz said. The explanation was that the large amount of water he was consuming was giving him a higher dose of fluoride than recommended.
He immediately switched to bottled water and typed "fluoride" into a Google search engine. Soon, he said, he started feeling better physically, but the information he found concerned him greatly.
He went to the Ormond Beach City Commission in March 2005, unaware that since the 1950s fears about fluoride have been raised -- and largely dismissed.
He cites a Web site and the findings detailed on it. In this era of infinite facts at our fingertips, questions about the site's accuracy prompts Schultz to answer: "How do we know anything is correct?"
The overall reception he's received from city leaders bewilders him. "I had a Boy Scout mentality -- I thought they would look at the science," he said. "I had no idea that policy and position would be more important."
Ormond Beach Mayor Fred Costello, who is a dentist, said the science is in -- on the side of fluoride in the water."I have the utmost respect for Jim's passion," Costello said. "But I don't agree with his conclusions."
Rebuffs like that have only made Schultz more determined. Lee Shavers, owner of Peggy's Whole Foods in Ormond Beach and South Daytona, who originally led Schultz to his "Aha" moment, said few anti-fluoride fighters have been as relentless as Schultz.
"He has the type of personality to really just keep carrying the ball, get knocked down repeatedly but keep on rolling," said Shavers, who himself has largely given up the fight in public.
After being shot down by the Daytona Beach City Commission, Schultz took his fight to an even higher level -- representatives from the state Health Department -- who had been called to the meeting in case more information was needed.
"Unions at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) sued over fluoridation," Schultz told Michael Easley, the dental health coordinator at the state Health Department.
"Unions sue over everything," Easley retorted."The truth will win out," Schultz declared.
"It will win out again and there will be fluoridated water," Easley said.
The challenge was laid. So Schultz picked up his sign and soldiered on.