The scientific establishment says fluoride in water is beneficial, but Kyle Hence disagrees.
NEWPORT, R.I. — A cursory Google search shows how deep the fault lines run between supporters and opponents of fluoridating community water supplies.
There appears to be no middle ground between the two sides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call the practice one of the 10 “great public health achievements” of the 20th century. The Fluoride Action Network, a national organization critical of fluoridation, raises awareness of the “toxicity of fluoride compounds.”
Medical achievement or poison: that is how the argument is framed.
The debate has raged since before Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945 became the first municipality in the United States to add fluoride to its supply. And now it has surfaced in Newport with a single, albeit passionate, fluoride opponent in resident Kyle Hence.
Health organizations, including the American Dental Association, have gone to great lengths touting the benefits of fluoride and to “be aware of misinformation on the internet and other junk science related to water fluoridation.”
Hence disagrees strongly.
“This is an industrial waste product, a poison and a known developmental neuro-toxin,” Hence wrote in a statement. He points to studies that conclude ingesting fluoride can have negative health effects and argues that governments do not have the authority to “medicate” residents without their consent.
The addition of fluoride to the trace amount that naturally occurs in water is the “most efficient way to prevent one of the most common childhood diseases — tooth decay,” counters the American Dental Association in its “Fluoridation Facts” published in 2006.
Hence has taken his argument to City Hall, where he has petitioned the City Council to have the Newport Water Division stop fluoridating its water. The office, a division of the city’s Department of Utilities, treats and delivers water to Newport, Middletown, the southwestern corner of Portsmouth and Naval Station Newport.
“He needs to convince those that we consider to be our experts, Julia (Forgue),” Mayor Harry Winthrop told The Daily News on Wednesday.
Forgue, the city’s director of utilities, did not respond to an email sent Wednesday seeking comment. A call to her office was referred to the state Department of Health.
“I believe Julia does not feel it is an issue,” Winthrop said. “I don’t have any official documents from her. The level of concern that Kyle has — she is nowhere near that level.”
Councilor Marco Camacho said he does not have a strong opinion about fluoridation and is “open to the debate.”
He approaches the matter from a fiscal perspective, whether the city can save money by stopping fluoridation. He is not persuaded that drinking the city’s fluoridated water poses a health risk.
“I don’t have a fear of it,” Camacho said. “I’ve been drinking the Newport water supply my whole life and I’ll continue to do it. … My family has very healthy teeth.”
“For people of all ages, it strengthens the surfaces of teeth when it comes into contact with them,” Joseph Wendelken, a state Department of Health spokesman, wrote in a prepared statement. “When it is swallowed by young children while teeth are forming, it combines with minerals of the developing teeth and makes them more resistant to decay, especially during the first few years after they come into the mouth.”
The statement continued that when there is an optimal amount of fluoride in water, tooth decay is reduced by about 25 percent. Between 1966 and 1994, the average number of “decayed, filled or missing teeth among 12-year-olds fell 68 percent.”
Hence points to studies he says show ties between fluoride and health problems, including bone cancer, a drop in I.Q. and damage to the thyroid gland. Public health officials have countered that the preponderance of the evidence shows there is no link between fluoride and negative health impacts, according to news reports.
Hence also cites journalists and experts, such as Robert Carton, a former Environmental Protection Agency senior official, who said, “Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud in this century, if not of all time.”
Government agencies “bury” or disregard studies that contradict the stated benefits of fluoride, according to Hence. “I think the government has known this is unsafe from the beginning,” he said. “This is a national security issue.”
While 74 percent of Americans have access to fluoridated water, according to the CDC, some countries in Western Europe have abandoned the practice.
Pockets of resistance in the United States have brought the practice to a halt or, in some cases, stopped it from ever starting. Voters in Portland, Oregon, have four times rejected adding fluoride to its water supply, making it the largest city in the U.S. to forgo fluoridation.
In 2011, the commissioners in Pinellas County, Florida, voted to stop adding fluoride to its water supply, only to reverse course about a year later, according to news reports.
If the Newport council declines to take action imminently, Hence said he will continue educating the community.
The onus falls on the council to do something, whether to reaffirm its support for fluoridation or move away from it, Hence argued.
“I think that whatever the City Council does, I expect them and it’s their responsibility to be fully transparent with the residents of Newport,” he said. “I want a statement of declaration … that it does not reduce I.Q., (that) it’s not a dangerous neurotoxin. I want a declaration from them because they’re the responsible party.”
Winthrop urged Hence to share his concerns with Newport Water.
“Just because he does (have concerns) doesn’t mean they’ll come back and say it’s right,” Winthrop said.