HARWICH – The lead proponent of a board of health study on the use of fluoride in the town’s public water system is backing away from his initial position.
Health board member Dr. Alfred Hurst said Monday night he has read the comments made to the health department since recommending the study and has listened to health board member Dr. Robert Insley’s comments on fluoride making the bones of the elderly more brittle.
“In the town of Harwich with its older population, I don’t think we should do it,” Hurst told members of the board during its second public discussion on the topic.
The health board had invited Water Department Superintendent Craig Wiegand to discuss impacts of fluoridation through the public water supply on his department. Wiegand said over the past couple of weeks he has done a lot of research and a number of issues must be addressed before a decision is made.
The water department superintendent said the conflicting impacts on the youth and elderly populations must be resolved. He recommended the board look at the scientific facts carefully before making a decision. Wiegand said the cost factor for the department to implement the program must also be considered.
The initial startup costs were estimated to be $300,000, including $200,000 to retrofit the system. There would be an annual cost of $60,000 for chemicals and anticipated replacement of pumps, the superintendent said.
“Not everybody is going to want fluoride,” Wiegand said. “It’s much more cost effective to go in other directions.”
Wiegand said this has to be weighed against the cost of individual application made through a dental office. Calls to dentists indicate two fluoride applications a year is appropriate and the cost would be $60, he said.
The water department superintendent also asked who will regulate the amount of fluoride a person should ingest. If something happens, he said, the water department will also be the first to hear about it. Other communities on the Cape have looked at it and decided against it, he added.
Health Department Director Paula Champagne said she has placed a couple of calls to the school department to find out if any steps are taken there to provide fluoride applications for students, but, she has not received a response.
There has been a lot of interest in this topic, Champagne told The Chronicle this week. Her department has fielded several phone calls on the topic and received about eight letters. That is a lot for a topic under consideration by a local board, she said.
Several of those letters came in the form of emailed position papers from organizations espousing their position against the use of fluoride in the public water supply. There were also a few local letters in opposition to introducing fluoride into the water system.
Board of Health Chairman Dr. Stanley Kocot recommended the board continue to gather a data base and come to a conclusion based on that information. He said he would like to hear the position of the local dental society. Hurst said he made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to reach the society for its position.
Insley said a search of literature on the issue could be huge. He cited a letter to the editor and information sent by Dr. Jeffrey Sutherland, a former professor of radiology, biometrics and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado, with local ties to Harwich, calling fluoride a toxic substance and adding no amount is safe.
“It causes bone and teeth damage to adults and children and bone cancer in children. The Harvard study on fluoride induced bone cancer in children was suppressed by a dentist. These are the guys that still put mercury in people’s teeth. No amount of mercury, however small, is safe. Fluoride is worse. There are other options,” Sutherland wrote.
“There has never been a scientifically approved, documented link between the U. S. fluoridated water and cancer, and to report so is irresponsible … Fluoride, as a preventive medicine, is invaluable in lowering the incidence of oral disease, which the medical and dental professions have linked to diabetes and severe cardiac and vascular disease,” responded Dr. John F. Mancini, of the Mid/Upper Cape Community Health Center in a letter to the editor this week.
Mancini also challenged Sutherland’s position on the use of mercury. What Sutherland fails to understand is mercury forms a compound with silver in fillings the same way toxic chlorine forms a compound with toxic sodium to form table salt, Mancini said.
Insley wanted to know how this issue came to the health board. Kocot said Hurst brought it up after reading about the success of fluoride in a New York water supply and wanted to examine it on the local level.
Champagne said she is not certain where the board takes the issue. She asked what other information should be prepared or other segments of the community they wish to hear from. Hurst was ready to cease examination of town sponsored fluoride, but other members were not prepared to drop it mid-stream.
“We’d put Paula (Champagne) on the hot seat with public relations if we don’t explore it,” health board member Mary Jane Watson.