Two films critical of the health effects of fluoride will be screened at the Ashland Public Library next week, spurred by a developing discussion on whether to add the chemical to the town’s water.
The Friends of the Ashland Library’s documentary film series will present two 30-minute films from a DVD called “Drinking Water: Let the Truth Be Told.” The DVD is produced by Dr. David Kennedy, a dentist opposed to fluoridation.
Series organizers showed two other films from the DVD last week. The next two segments play Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion.
David Whitty, who runs the film series with his wife, Cynthia, said he came across the movies after reading about the Board of Health’s plans to hold public talks on fluoride early this year. Whitty began researching the topic and said he was “astonished” to find studies questioning the science of fluoridation and apparently connecting the practice with health problems.
“There is research to show that it might not be so safe,” Cynthia Whitty said. “I just hope that there’s some discussion on it and (residents) don’t just blindly go accepting it because a lot of communities have it.”
But others in Ashland favor fluoride, including Dr. Sandra Cove, a dentist with an office on Main Street. The town has a high rate of tooth decay, despite generally good dental care, she said.
“Especially in children, we see quite a bit of decay compared to areas that have fluoride,” Cove said yesterday. “It’s not uncommon for kids to have three or four cavities in their baby teeth.”
Town health officials say they will offer residents plenty of information on both sides of the fluoride debate when they hold a public discussion on the pros and cons in the next couple months. A date has not yet been set.
Health Director Mark Oram said Whitty gave him and Board of Health members copies of the DVD, as well as a 1997 report by a Natick study committee that recommended against fluoridation in that town.
Oram declined to comment on the films, saying he had yet to watch them.
“There’s two sides to this coin, and we’ve got to listen to both sides to hear what’s best and what the science shows,” Oram said.
Board of Health Chairman Malcolm Smart said he watched the first two films on the DVD and felt they offered little “causative proof” or solid science for the problems they cite. But he said he still wants to hear more from both sides and would provide residents copies of the Natick report at the upcoming discussion.
“Everyone has free thoughts and they have a right to what they think,” Smart said of the film organizers.
David Whitty said he wants to start a general discussion about fluoride and draw attention to the concerns he sees. Residents who saw last week’s films had mixed opinions, but some may form a group to oppose fluoridation, he said.
He said he would be open to showing a film on the other side of the debate, but has seen no documentaries like that. The health concerns are “the story that needs to be told,” Whitty said. “It’s sort of the suppressed point of view, sort of the dismissed point of view.”
Supporters like Cove note the American Dental Association supports fluoridation, and say it is a fairly cheap and effective way to strengthen developing teeth. It is added to water in most MetroWest communities, including all supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.
The MWRA adds about one part fluoride per million parts water, a dosage that is not harmful, supporters say.
“Prevention is the means to health, definitely,” said Cove, who plans to make her case to the Board of Health.
Critics say fluoridation carries health risks that range from an increased risk of cancer to damage to developing teeth.
According to the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology – a group that provides the DVD that will be shown at the library – the first film, “China’s Battle With Crippling Waters,” is about harmful effects of naturally high levels of fluoride in some drinking water.
In the second film, “The Fluoride Deception,” author Christopher Bryson probes the background of fluoride and challenges the science behind it.