Littleton – The Board of Health heard arguments for and against fluoridating Littleton’s public water supply at their public hearing held on Jan. 15.
The crowd was evenly balanced with proponents and opponents of the idea, all waiting to add opinions to the debate.
Leading the push to fluoridate the water supply were Littleton dentist Craig Gruskowski, DMD and Massachusetts Dental Society Trustee and Framingham dentist James Cinamon, DMD.
Gruskowski strongly advocated for fluoridation, citing the “clinical benefits of fluoridation” and explaining that the American Dental Society, Massachusetts Dental Society, and Massachusetts Department of Public Health all support water fluoridation.
He said that adding fluoride to the water supply would be the most cost effective way to ensure residents received the proper amount of fluoride, a key preventative to dental disease in children and adults.
“I believe the addition of fluoride would enhance this water system,” said Gruskowski.
Cinamon supported Gruskowski’s claims, noting, “Water fluoridation is a very inexpensive way to alleviate disease” and that it is “the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay.”
“Every one dollar spent on fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs,” said Cinamon.
He also cautioned residents to “beware of junk science on the Internet.”
“No court has determined fluoride to be hazardous,” said Cinamon.
While Littleton Electric Light and Water’s General Manager Savos Danos readily acknowledged that water fluoridation is a “public health miracle” and that he is “not opposed to fluoridation,” he told the Board of Health that he did not recommend it for Littleton.
Danos said that fluoridation is best for “a large population of underserved and/or undereducated customers,” and that he sees the population of Littleton as “well educated and having access to proper fluoridation.”
He said that “only from 2 to 10 percent of the drinking water produced by the Littleton Water Department is ingested. And, of that roughly 10 percent, only a small fraction is ingested by children below the age of 12.”
Danos also explained that 60 percent of school children already take advantage of a free, voluntary fluoride rinse program, though Nashoba Associated Boards of Health Agent Jim Garreffi, R.S., said the program is limited to children in the early elementary grades.
“A majority of the water used in Littleton is either flushed down the drain or is used for irrigation,” Danos said. “A majority of the fluoride used in our supply would hence be wasted,” he said.
“In addition, wasted fluoride would create a burden to our ground and surface water sources,” he said.
Danos characterized the financial costs of fluoridation as a deterrent, explaining that the fluoridation of Littleton’s four water production facilities in town would be “very costly,” with “capital costs of approximately $20,000 and operating costs of approximately $10,000 a year.”
In addition, there would be “union contract negotiations and additional (unnecessary) compensation to operations staff for fluoride treatment.” He indicated that all of these costs would be “borne by the rate payers.”
Littleton residents spoke for and against fluoridation at the meeting as well.
Emily Prendeville told the Board of Health members she did not support fluoridation.
“I question the benefits and I’m concerned about our right to choose,” she said.
Vera Cohen also voiced her concerns about fluoridation and its future potential effects.
“I feel that we have very good water here,” Cohen said. “There have been many times that people have gone ahead and done things, only to find out that [these decisions] were very, very bad.”
Lisa Mastorakos endorsed the idea of fluoridation for Littleton.
“I think the arguments for adding fluoride are much stronger than the arguments against,” she said. “School is for reading, writing and arithmetic. I don’t think we should depend on it for fluoride,” she said.
Littleton resident and Wayland’s Director of Public Health Steve Calichman concurred.
“I strongly believe in fluoridation,” he said.
Littleton’s Board of Health will vote on the issue of fluoridation at a later date. For those interested in learning more about the issue, Beverly Cyr, Office Manager for the Board of Health, indicated that she has compiled a binder of information from those for and against fluoridation, and it is available for public inspection in the Board of Health’s offices or at the library.