With the Meadville Area Water Authority signaling it may make a decision on adding fluoride to its water sometime this fall, the local group that has organized to oppose fluoridation will revive plans to bring the foremost critic of the practice to the community as part of its efforts to educate the public.
Clean Water Meadville hopes to secure an agreement to have Paul Connett appear at a public forum. Connett, a retired chemistry professor, is the driving force behind the Fluoride Action Network, which seeks to educate the public about what it sees as the harmful impact of fluoride.
Allegheny College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Timothy Chapp is among those spearheading the effort to connect with Connett, but work on that project had been put on hold when it became clear the water authority was not going to address the fluoride issue any time soon. With the timeline becoming clearer, Chapp is working with local chiropractor Chris Knapp, another prominent voice with Clean Water Meadville, to make arrangements for a visit.
“From the Clean Water Meadville perspective, I’ve been emailing back and forth with Chris Knapp and I’ve been in contact with Paul,” Chapp said. “We want to bring Paul here to give a public forum and to have a balanced discussion.”
Knapp and Chapp have been active in the community educating residents about the concerns many have with adding fluoride to the public water system.
“The people behind the fluoride initiative are well-intentioned and they are good people and I know a number of them,” Knapp said. “My fear is that if we put fluoride in the water, we will feel that we’ve really accomplished something, and that could possibly ignore the root of the problem, which is access to care and diet.”
Knapp also raises concerns around an issue he calls “informed consent.”
“From a concerned citizen standpoint, there’s no informed consent with adding fluoride in the water,” he said. “When you go to your medical doctor you have to consent to the medication they prescribe. That’s an important freedom in this country and that’s taken away with fluoridation in the water. There is no informed consent.”
Chapp is also concerned about the issue of consent.
“It’s a unique case. Because the water system is public there’s not an easy way for people not to be affected,” Chapp said. “An example is if you want fluoride pills to give to your child you need a prescription, but at the same time the FDA (federal Food and Drug Administration) allows fluoride in bottled water but it depends on where it is being packaged and how much.”
As a scientist interested in research surrounding fluoride, Chapp actively raises questions about the process of water fluoridation, including questions of how fluoride is defined. “Do you view it as an ion in the water or do you view it as a drug? In the reading that I’ve done it’s not clear across the board,” said Chapp.
Although they are opposed to water fluoridation, both Knapp and Chapp are not opposed to the use of fluoride in a topical way.
“I don’t object to fluoride — I use toothpaste which has fluoride,” Knapp said. “The best way to use fluoride is to use it topically.”
Using it by applying it directly to teeth better controls the amount ingested, Knapp and others point out, and there is some data that indicate that ingesting too much fluoride may cause health problems.
Emerald Wright-Collie graduated from Allegheny College this month with a degree in communication arts and a minor in journalism in the public interest. This story was written as part of her coursework.