The Bennington Citizens Against Fluoridated Water hosted a forum discussion on Thursday, in response to the previous week’s panel hosted by the pro-fluoride Bennington Oral Health Coalition.
The forum, which was broadcast live on Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV) as an episode of “Bennington Tonite,” hosted by Mike Bethel, featured a five-person panel made up of two prominent New England anti-fluoride advocates and three Bennington residents who oppose fluoridation for a variety of reasons. Held at the Bennington fire facility, the forum was moderated by Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
The panel was made up of local engineer Jerry Albert; Kathleen Krevetski, a registered nurse who has led the fight to remove fluoride from Rutland’s water supply; Dr. Alex Tenentes, a local optometrist; Linda Crawford, a registered nurse from Bennington who was diagnosed with a fluoride allergy; and Dr. Deborah Moore, a longtime advocate who has led organizations that have twice prevented fluoridation from being implemented in Worcester, Mass., and executive director of Second Look, a national non-profit that, “evolved from grassroots frustration with public policies that are so controversial that useful, factual information becomes almost impossible for the public and even professionals to sort out,” according to their website.
For the first hour of the program, the panel participated in a roundtable discussion, with questions asked by Smith. Afterward, the public was invited to ask questions of the panel. While not as well attended as the previous week’s forum, this event did see many members of the public, and several select board candidates, turn out.
“I know that if I were in the shoes of the people of Bennington right now, I would be confused,” said Smith as an introduction to the panel discussion, “There is no shortage of good people, and everybody is trying to do the right thing. We heard from good people last week who are promoting the use of fluoride in the water, and tonight we’re going to hear from good people who think it’s a really bad idea.”
Moore, who noted that she was not a dentist or medical doctor, but a longtime special education teacher who held her Ph.D. in a “relevant field of study,” told the story of how she had become involved in the fluoride debate. “I owe being an activist to the fluoride mandate that happened in Worcester, Mass. in 1996,” she said, “At that time, I knew as much about fluoride as other people generally do, which is not much at all. I knew it was in my toothpaste, and was supposed to be good for teeth, but I also knew I didn’t want a chemical added to the water, even if it was supposed to be good for children’s teeth, or even my teeth. Before I went to the city council hearing in 1996, I felt I had to convince myself there was any case at all against fluoridation.”
Crawford told her story as well, which involved two consecutive dangerous allergic reactions to products containing fluoride, which led her doctors to the conclusion that she had an allergy to fluoride. She now has to be very careful about the products she consumes, and moved to Bennington because the town did not fluoridate its water. She rejected the sameness of natural and artificial fluoride, saying, “Fluoride that is found naturally in water is made by Mother Nature. Man cannot mimic Mother Nature. The stuff they put in the water to fluoridate it is actually a toxic waste from the phosphate fertilizer industry.”
“I want to talk about common sense, because that’s how I got into it,” said Krevetski, who said she first became an activist when Rutland attempted to put the disinfectant chloramine in the water in 2012. She said she had been told that fluoride was another dangerous chemical in the water, and when Bennington began to discuss fluoridation, she said, “I went to the board of aldermen and said, ‘This is a waste of money, we should take it out of the water.’ Then I started researching it.”
“I remember eating toothpaste when I was a kid,” said Crawford, “Bubble gum, all of it. Well now you can’t do it. Oh my goodness! Let’s use our common sense.”
Albert said that he rejected the idea that fluoride was a panacea that would solve all of Bennington’s oral health problems. “I wanted to dispel some wild ideas that we’d have this utopia society,” he said, “and it’ll be great, all we have to do is sprinkle some fluoride powder over our reservoir and all the children will be dancing in the streets and happy.” Albert told the story of how three of his children had taken fluoride vitamins as infants, and each of those children needed oral surgery for crooked teeth, while the fourth, who did not take fluoride, did not.
Tenentes rejected the idea that fluoridating the water would save taxpayer money. “You can’t put a price tag on American freedom,” he said.
Even Smith, the moderator, commented on the safety of fluoride, “There is a lot of good science on this topic, and there is overwhelming evidence that it is a neurotoxin, a poison.”
To view the full forum, watch it rebroadcast on CAT-TV, or check their YouTube channel.
Residents of Bennington and North Bennington will be able to vote on the question, Article 15, on March 3.
“Let’s get the money to the mouths,” argued Tenentes in closing, “not down the toilet and down the drain.”