About two dozen people turned out for Monday’s public hearing on fluoride in town drinking water. The issue was raised earlier in the summer by Sarah Lane.
Fluoride is promoted as being effective in preventing tooth decay and particularly effective in youngsters, whose teeth are just forming.
Lane said at the hearing that she is not “anti-fluoride,” but opposes having it in drinking water and exposing everyone to possible negative health effects.
“I think it’s unnecessary for the entire community to ingest it when the target population is children with budding teeth,” she said.
Lane said parents who wish their children to have fluoride can get it by prescription, and SAD 44 also provides regular topical fluoride for students.
But Dr. Maurice Convey of Oxford Hills Dental Associates in Norway said water is the best way to deliver fluoride and reach the most people.
“The water supply reaches everybody,” he said. “It reaches people who can’t get a prescription; it reaches people who don’t go to the dentist.”
Convey said he had practiced dentistry in Bethel 20 years ago. “I can’t tell you how many people I saw in their early 40s who had never been to the dentist, never had their teeth cleaned and had every tooth rotted out to the gum line with just root stumps there,” he said.
He said while topical fluoride treatments can stop decay in its early stages, fluoride ingested while teeth are forming hardens the teeth.
As for children getting fluoride by prescription, he said parents don’t always remember to give it to them, or the children may dislike the form in which it is given.
Convey also cited the case of the towns of Norway and Paris. Norway began fluoridating its water in the 1950s, he said, and there was a marked difference in cavities in children in the two towns.
He also said he has been seeing more cavities in recent years because of the popularity of sweetened drinks, and removing fluoride could make the overall situation worse.
“I don’t want to necessarily be treating kids with massive amounts of rampant decay,” he said. “I think it would tip what I see now over the balancing point. Put kids over the edge.”
Lane was not convinced by his arguments. She said there are many factors that play a role in the formation of cavities, and fewer cavities cannot necessarily be tied only to fluoride in the water.
She also noted that the bags of fluoride the Bethel Water District uses to treat the water are marked “poison.”
Convey said there are naturally occurring substances that if put in a concentrated form would be poisonous.
“There are plenty of poisons in our environment that we are exposed to on a daily basis, and you take something like a bag of fluoride, yeah, that will kill you,” he said. “You put it in a billion gallons of water, there’s a big benefit to the community.”
Sally Taylor said she has a problem with dehydration and must drink many glasses of water a day. Because of the sheer volume, she said, she is concerned about how much fluoride she is getting.
The hearing concluded after a half-hour. Selectmen decided to hold another within 30 days of the June 9, 2015, vote. They said they would set a date for it by the end of this year.
In other business Monday, interim Town Manager Steve Eldridge said that so far there are more than 30 applicants from across the country for the permanent town manager position.
He suggested selectmen narrow the list down to six to interview. The board will meet Sept. 10 to begin the process. They hope to have a new manager by the end of September.
Selectmen also accepted the resignation of Hiram Towle from the Bethel Airport Authority. He is leaving the state for another job. Selectmen are seeking a replacement, noting the person does not need to be a Bethel resident.
The board agreed to replace the two large front windows in the Town Office building at a cost of $1,900. Eldridge said the old-style glass, if broken, would be a safety hazard.
Resident Lida Iles, who helps tend the flower boxes at the base of the windows, suggested they be replaced also because they are in poor shape. She proposed a fundraiser to pay for them.