KENNEBUNK — Customers of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells Water District voted Tuesday to stop adding fluoride to the public water supply.
Janice Hanson, chairperson of Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation, the citizen’s group that sought signatures to put the issue on the ballot, said, “Voters in seven Maine communities sent a loud and clear message that they do not want fluoridation chemicals in the public water supply. Tomorrow the fluoridation equipment at the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District will be unplugged and we will no longer be ingesting hydrofluorosilicic acid from the phosphate industry.”
Norm Labbe, superintendent of KKWWD, said Wednesday, “the fluoride feed pumps were turned off this morning at around 7 a.m. Some customers (those near our treatment facilities) will have an immediate drop in fluoride to natural background levels of about 0.25 parts per million. Within a couple weeks all customers will have that same background level of natural fluoride.”
Residents of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel, Biddeford Pool and Fortune’s Rocks and the Cape Neddick section of York voted on the referendum question which read.“Shall fluoride be added to the public water supply for the intended purpose of reducing tooth decay?” The No vote prevailed 13,385 to 6,918.
Kennebunk voted 4,842 no to 2,571 yes, Kennebunkport voted 1,679 no to 792 yes, and Wells votes tallied 4,436 no to 2,245 yes. Ogunquit votes totaled 537 no to 330 yes, and Arundel voted out fluoride 1,692 to 800. Biddeford Pool narrowly voted to eliminate fluoride with 149 no votes and 129 yes, and York Beach voters were the only ones to support water fluoridation by a one vote margin, with 51 yes votes, and 50 no votes, according to unofficial results.
At the polls Tuesday evening Kennebunk resident Susan Karytko said she voted no on fluoride.
“I have thyroid issues, and I drink a lot of water. We know that topical application of fluoride is the way to go. We provide free nutritious food to children in low-income families, how expensive could it be to give free fluoride rinses as well,” Karytko said.
Talia Audley, of Kennebunk, said she didn’t support fluoride in the public water supply because she thinks it’s time for public health to take a different approach to the issue.
The Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District has been adding fluoride to the water since 2004. Labbe said the Water District is pleased with the outcome of the fluoride referendum. KKWWD trustees took a public stance against fluoride earlier this year.
“It’s evident that the voting public is now more informed about the subject than they were back in 2002, when fluoridation was voted in. The Water District thanks the Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation volunteers and in particular the voters for their knowledgeable decision to cease the addition of fluoride to our water. We look forward to staying true to our mission of providing the highest quality of water at the lowest reasonable cost,” he said.
Dianne Smallidge, RDH, MDH, associate professor at the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene representing the group Healthy Teeth, Healthy Smiles promoting water fluoridation, said the residents of the communities who are served by KKWWD have been robbed of what the CDC has identified as one of the great public health achievements, community water fluoridation.
“The dentists, hygienists, health professionals and other experts who tried to inform our community members on the facts regarding the safety and efficacy of fluoride, and its importance to oral health, are of course disappointed with the voting outcome. But even more our group is concerned about the negative impact this decision will have on our friends and neighbors’ general well-being,” Smallidge said.
Hanson said the The Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation brought the issue before voters because they felt strongly that fluoride added to the drinking water is an unnecessary toxin that should not be ingested.
“We understand fluoridation is an issue that requires a deeper examination of what we’ve been told in the past, and we are grateful to the people of these communities for their careful study and critical thinking that brought us to this moment. This result is a solid indicator that people are thinking critically about fluoridation,” Hanson said. “Voters joined us and (KKWWD) in our commitment to freedom of choice in what we ingest into our bodies. They joined us in our belief that delivering medical treatment through the water supply without an accurate dosage methodology and informed consent is contrary to the very foundation of our country’s civil liberties and safety protocols.”
Smallidge said she’s disheartened that the water district supported the removal of fluoride from the public water system.
“It is the KKWWD trustees, its superintendent and the members of this misinformed citizens group who will now hold the responsibility for putting our most vulnerable community members, particularly our children and older adults, at an increased risk for dental decay and for the inevitable rise in the decay rate we will now witness in York County,” she said. “These individuals hold no credentials or expertise regarding dental science or public health yet were allowed through this public agency to use scare tactics and ‘junk’ science to mislead our community members.”
Hanson said she’s confident that the dental professionals who believe in fluoridation will honor the will of the voters.
“We appreciate the professionalism of those dentists who believe in fluoridation and we are confident they will honor the will of the voters. To them, we extend our hand with the hope of providing education about dental hygiene to those who cannot easily access it,” she said.