To fluoridate or not to fluoridate? That is the question being put to Gloucester voters in a non-binding referendum on Nov. 3.
Passions about fluoridation run high around the globe, not just in Gloucester. Public health experts point to 70 years of U.S. safety in adding miniscule amounts of fluoride to public drinking water and success in preventing tooth decay.
Opponents quote other research and organizations worldwide that raise serious concerns about the health dangers of ingesting fluoride, particularly for children and those with kidney disease.
Some opponents, including the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network (FAN), accuse government officials of deliberately “covering up” the dangers of fluoridation, of “misleading” and “poisoning” the public.
On Oct. 11, FAN posted on its Facebook page: “Getting away with murder…… A lengthy article very much worth reading…” and provided a link to a 2011 article on infowars.com, called “Fluoride Poisoning — It’s All Over”.
FAN also shared recently a post by Carol S. Kopf, BS, MA on her blog, Fluoride Dangers, titled, “Fluoride Dangers: CDC misleads legislators about fluoride’s kidney effects. Is it a Cover-up?”
In February, Tracey Ritchie, FAN’s Gloucester coordinator, joined two public health experts on a WBUR FM Radio Boston segment called, “The Fluoride Debate Rages On In Some Massachusetts Cities,” which was moderated by Anthony Brooks.
Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard’s School of Public Health, shared findings of research in China that demonstrated the dangers fluoride poses to children’s developing brains. Key to the study was the amount of fluoride used in the water, most of which was higher than that used in the U.S. as pointed out by the other expert.
Howard Pollick, professor of health sciences at the University of California School of Dentistry and chair of the Fluoridation Advisory Committee at the California Dental Association Foundation, presented what he said was the science behind fluoridation.
“There have been 70 years of experience since the initial community trials in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Mich., Newburgh, N.Y. and other places. They were trying to simulate what naturally occurs in some communities, that is, an optimal concentration of fluoride in the water. At that time it was considered to be about 1 part per million, a milligram per liter, a very small concentration,” Pollick explained.
“What they found was it had a profound effect on reducing the severity and burden of tooth decay for the community, so that was simulated in these community trials, and found to be very effective, without any consequences to health. That practice now occurs with about three-quarters of the American public that’s served by public water systems. That’s over 200 million people in this country.”
When questioned by Brooks, Cape Ann FAN’s Ritchie shared a different perspective, saying that people should have a choice.
It would be better for people who want to use fluoride to apply it to their teeth, rather than have it delivered systemically via the community water system, according to Ritchie. Not only does water fluoridation take away a person’s choice, it results in fluoride circulating throughout the body, which opponents believe negatively impacts health.
FAN member Karen Favazza Spencer of Gloucester called into the show to raise the alarm about fluoride.
Spencer’s Facebook timeline is filled with articles about the health risks of environmental toxins. She testified before the Gloucester City Council in December 2014 about allergies and sensitivities to fluoride, including those suffered by herself and her children.
“In Gloucester, just considering the 15 percent with chemical sensitivities and an equivalent number of those with kidney disease, there are 9,000 residents who should not use fluoridated water,” Spencer testified. “Councilors – we elected you to serve our best interests. We are being poisoned. Find a way to stop it!”
After reviewing a host of research and scientific literature on water fluoridation, the Gloucester Board of Health unanimously voted at its July 24 meeting to recommend continued use of fluoride in the city’s community water supply.
“Science overwhelmingly supports fluoridation and the Board of Health does what’s best for the citizens of Gloucester,” said the city’s Public Health Director Noreen Burke.
To help residents understand the issues before they decide how they will vote, the Board of Health hosted on a panel of local experts at City Hall on Oct. 19 to present “balanced scientific information” on fluoridation, according to Burke.
The panelists were Myron Allukian, D.D.S., M.P.H., John Fisher, D.D.S. and Chair of the Better Oral Health for MA Coalition, Pediatrician Brian Orr, M.D., William Bebrin, D.M.D. and Candace Thompson, D.O. All are in favor of fluoridating the city’s drinking water.
About 100 people attended the forum, Burke said. Each panelist spoke for 10 minutes and then answered audience questions, which were submitted on index cards.
Members of Cape Ann FAN submitted questions, but did not speak when public comments were invited. Only one person came to the microphone and that person spoke in favor of fluoridation.
Cape Ann FAN will present “Professional Perspectives,” a short documentary on fluoridation, on Thursday, Oct. 29, 6-7:30 p.m. in the Sawyer Free Library Friend Room.
“Come join us for an informative evening outlining why we should end the policy of community water fluoridation,” the group’s flyer reads.