AUGUSTA, Maine –Maine dental and public health organizations Monday condemned anti-fluoride claims made by a Bangor pediatrician, saying they don’t want more Maine towns to change their water-treatment policies on the basis of “misinformation.”
Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dora Anne Mills led representatives of state dental, medical, public health and pediatric associations who said public water fluoridation is completely safe and the most effective way to fight tooth decay.
The hastily called news conference came days after publication of an opinion piece by a Bangor pediatrician, Leo Leonidas, that said voters in the Mount Desert Water District did the right thing earlier this month when they decided to remove fluoride from the local drinking water.
In his weekend column, Leonidas cited studies he said link fluoride with lower IQs and autism in children. He also said the chemical can weaken bones in adults.
“This misinformation is harmful,” said Mills, because it spreads fears about one of the most effective public health measures of the 20th Century — public water fluoridation.
Mills and others dismissed studies Leonidas used to buttress his claims, saying some were taken out of context and others made erroneous claims about fluoride policies in other countries.
Dentist Jonathan Shenkin, representing the Maine Dental Association, labeled the claims as “scare tactics.”
“The public has been deceived,” Shenkin said, adding that in more than 60 years fluoride has been used in public water, tooth decay and tooth loss have declined sharply. He said fluoride is added in safe doses to drinking water, and it’s found naturally in many water supplies.
In Mount Desert, the water district’s board endorsed a vote not to fluoridate the water. Fluoride had been added to the town water supply since 1963, and Mount Desert became the first Maine community to decide to stop using it.
About half of Maine residents get their water from private wells, Mills said. Of the state’s public water systems, about 84 percent are fluoridated.
It costs 50 cents to $3 per person per year to fluoridate water, said Frances Miliano of the Maine Dental Association. Over a lifetime, it’s less than the cost of a filling, she said.