ONEIDA – Paul Connett, a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, will speak to the Oneida Common Council about public water fluoridation, a measure which he calls both useless and dangerous to the health of city residents.
Connett, who teaches general chemistry and toxicology at St. Lawrence University, has researched the issues of fluoride‘s toxicity and the fluoridation of public water debate for six years. He helped found the Fluoridate Action Network, a coalition of citizens and scientists from 14 different countries who are attempting to end fluoridation through debate.
Connett’s meeting with the Common Council will be held on Thursday, April 11, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the Common Council chambers at Oneida City Hall.
“I am very much against fluoridation,” Connett said. “I’ve been looking at it for six years, and I’ve done so with an open mind. I have found the benefits have been wildly exaggerated and the risks to health have been severely underestimated.”
The issue of public water fluoridation was placed before the Common Council by the Oneida-Madison Preventive Dentistry Coalition last year. The Common Council voted down public water fluoridation in the 1970s, and once again will debate the issue this year.
Connett recently compiled a report entitled “50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation.” The report can be found on the FAN Web site at www.fluoridealert.org. In the report, Connett writes that the main reason to oppose fluoridation of public water is that fluoride is not an essential nutrient and no disease has ever been linked to a fluoride deficiency. Connett said that humans can have perfectly good teeth without fluoride.
“There is very striking evidence that fluoridation is not the cure-all for dental decay,” Connett said. “There is a vast majority of Europe without fluoridation, and you can certainly look at their dental figures.”
A survey conducted in the U.S. by the National Institute of Dental Research showed little difference in tooth decay among children in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities. According to the study, a difference of only 0.6 decayed missing and filled surfaces in the permanent teeth of children aged 5 to17 residing in either fluoridated or unfluoridated areas. This difference is less than one tooth surface. There are 128 tooth surfaces in a child’s mouth, the report said.
The report said that one of the early trials which helped launch fluoridation took place in Newburgh and Kingston. Kingston was the control community in the study. After 10 years of this trial, there was a large decrease in dental caries in the fluoridated community compared to the non-fluoridated community. However, when children were re-examined in these two cities in 1995, 50 years after the trial began, there was practically no difference in the dental decay in the two communities. The report said that the teeth in unfluoridated Kingston were slightly better.
“The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is now acknowledging that the mechanism of fluoride’s benefits are mainly topical not systemic,” Connett said. “Thus you don’t have to swallow fluoride to protect teeth. Since swallowing fluoride is unnecessary, there is no reason to force people, against their will, to drink fluoride in their water supply.”
Connett said that fluoride is shown to cause thyroid problems, arthritis, hyperactivity in children, hip fractures, and skeletal fluorosis. Connett also said that that fluoridation is unethical because individuals are not being asked for their consent prior to medication.
“The whole notion of using the public water supply as a means of distributing medication is a problem,” Connett said. “There is a problem of informed consent.”
The Preventive Dentistry Coalition said that fluoridating Oneida’s water supply would help poor residents who cannot afford dentistry.
“There is a gigantic red herring,” Connett said. “We provide lousy dental coverage to poor people through Medicaid, because doctors can’t get enough money from the system to do the treatments. They actually lose money.”
Connett said that the early goal of water fluoridation was to limit dental fluorosis, a condition that means a child has overdosed on fluoride, to 10 percent of children. The percentage of children with dental fluorosis in fluoridated areas is up to eight times this goal. The report estimates that up to 48 percent of children in fluoridated areas have dental fluorosis in all forms and up to 12.5 percent in the mild to severe forms.
“The proponents talk about a dental crisis in Connecticut, but Connecticut is 90 percent fluoridated,” Connett said. “Why are they in such a dental crisis if fluoridation is supposed to solve dental problems?”
James Kinsella, public health educator for the Madison County Health Department, has been a strong advocate for fluoridation and joined the Preventive Dentistry Coalition in January in a worksession before the Common Council to discuss benefits of the measure. Connett asked Kinsella to debate in a public forum on the issue.
“This is not meant to be personal, but when people defend fluoridation, they become parrots spouting second-hand information, and they can’t defend their position,” Connett said. That’s unacceptable to me.”
Kinsella said that a debate would “probably not happen.” Kinsella said that a debate with Connett would provide misinformation to the Common Council, and he does not want to confuse the councilmen, who he said are not familiar with the issues surrounding fluoridation.
“To debate someone who does not understand the information that is out there would not be helpful, it would just confuse people,” Kinsella said. “It would not really be a debate, it would be a sideshow.”
Kinsella said that Connett’s views on fluoridation causing medical problems such as fluorosis and hip fractures are “ridiculous.” Kinsella said that it has been proven through countless studies that fluoride reduces tooth decay. He also said that studies on hip fractures show that fluoridation mostly has no effect on hip fractures.
“If someone who starts off with no evidence, you have to wonder where their credibility starts,” Kinsella said. “Because someone can point to one study, well, there are 20 other studies that show something else.”
Connett said that Kinsella cannot debate the issue, because he is under the authority of the medical profession and the government.
“The U.S. Public Health Service is political and not scientific,” Connett said. “They don’t want to debate fluoridation issues because they do not want to open a Pandora’s box of lawsuits against them by people with fluorosis.”
Connett said that by not debating the issues, the Health Department is dismissing rational data.
“They cannot defend their positions, citing literature, and they cannot cite literature with scientific answers,” Connett said. “They dismiss very rational and scientific areas of concern.”
Kinsella said that by the Common Council voting down fluoridation, they will cause pain and suffering to poor children who cannot afford dentistry.
“A ‘no’ vote doesn’t protect anyone’s health, and it needlessly exposes children to more dental hardship and pain,” Kinsella said. “A ‘yes’ vote doesn’t subject anyone to health risks. It’s a pretty easy vote. A ‘no’ vote means someone would have to live with the pain and suffering of children, and a ‘yes’ vote means someone will go down as one of the people who supported one of the top 10 public health measures.”
Connett said that residents of Oneida should research the material that is available to them.
“People need to look at the literature that is readily available to them,” Connett said. “And they have to do it with an open mind. The people that are proponents of this should defend their position, but it’s very difficult for them to do that because they don’t have the scientific proof to back it up. If they can’t defend their position, they should stop promoting it.”
Connett said that the issue is not meant to be personal, but said he wants accurate information from both sides to be presented to the public.
“Doctors and dentists are not out to hurt people, but they are trapped into promoting this by the medical authority they are used to taking orders from, and it becomes very unscientific and political,” Connett said. “That is very serious, because so much in our communities is based on trust, and we need to trust those we are paying to protect us.”