Littleton – The Board of Health is holding an open meeting this month to hear from the public about adding fluoride to the town’s water supply. The meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Littleton Light and Water Department, 39 Ayer Road.
Board Vice Chairman Ted Doucette said he heard from several residents urging the board to add the substance that has shown to strengthen children’s teeth.
But not everyone is sold on the idea, he said.
Savas Danos, manager of the light and water department, said other methods of ingesting fluoride should be implemented first, mainly because of the demographic in Littleton, and the existing programs that provide fluoride rinses in the schools.
Danos said for larger cities and towns where oral hygiene may not be practiced diligently and visits to the dentist are rare, fluoride in the public water supply is advisable, since it is good for children’s teeth.
But in Littleton, he said kids see a dentist regularly, in general, and good oral hygiene is a daily habit.
He said there is a volunteer program in place that provides for fluoride rinsing at school, but only 60 percent of the eligible children take advantage of it. He said perhaps the LELWD could add a notice to the light and water bill to advertise it more widely.
Danos said adding fluoride to the four plants could be done, but that would make all the water fluoridated, not just drinking water. There is no way of separating drinking water from other uses, he said.
Doucette said the implementation was problematic since the overwhelming use of water is for washing, bathing, gardening, and only a small amount is used for drinking.
“From 2 to 10 percent is used for drinking,” said Doucette. “That leaves about 90 percent or more that would be fluoridated that goes back into the ground.”
For dentist Craig Gruskowski, a member of the water commissioners, adding fluoride should be a no-brainer.
“It decreases dental disease,” said Gruskowski, “which is the number one infectious disease in this country.”
“Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that discourages the formation of decay in everyone, not just children,” said Gruskowski.
Doucette said the Board of Health wants to get public input about the matter, but he thinks the end result will be that the board will vote on putting the question to a referendum.
“Littleton will decide for itself what it wants to do about it,” said Doucette.
Acton and Concord have fluoride in the water supply along with about 130 more communities. Board of Health secretary Bev Cyr compiled a list of resources for the public to read before the Jan. 15 meeting. (See sidebar.)
Danos said in his 24 years with the town, “fluoridation comes up three or four times with different board members.”
“There is a lot of evidence that it is one of the most important breakthroughs for oral hygiene,” said Danos. “There is no doubt it is good.”
But he said his issue is that it would be a wasted effort, in large part, in Littleton.
“Kids don’t drink drinking water,” said Danos. “The benefit of adding fluoride would be further reduced. It would serve no purpose at all.”
Danos said three ways of ingesting the substance are available: fluoride tablets, fluoride toothpaste, and fluoride rinse in the schools.
But Gruskowski said fluoride tablets are costly, averaging about $90 per month, whereas adding it to the water supply is about $1 to $3 per person per year.