Supporters and foes of a plan to fluoridate the town’s water supply to
improve dental health are gearing up for a public forum next week.
That discussion will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Brattleboro Union High School gym, according to Town Manager Jerry Remillard.
“Probably there will be presentations by people on both sides, 10 to 15 minutes, and then it would be opened up to debate,” he said.
The Board of Selectmen voted on Sept. 12 to place the issue of municipal water fluoridation on the Nov. 7 ballot as a referendum, and have not taken a position on the issue. But members of the board will be in attendance at the forum, according to the text of a public warning.
Opponents of fluoridation painted a stark picture of what they said were the health risks of putting fluoride in the town water supply.
Citing statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), Shelley Elkins of Antrim, N.H., said fluoridation could
lead to higher rates of hip fractures, bone cancer, and fluorosis —
moderate to severe discoloration of teeth.
“They (the CDC) support fluoridation,” she acknowledged; “what they are against is overexposure to ingested fluoride.” She said ingestion could occur either through topical use– tooth brushing — or drinking fluoridated water, and added that the CDC has acknowledged a growing fluorosis problem.
Proponents of fluoridation also cited the CDC.
“They have called water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century,” said Dr. Lynn Herzog, a Brattleboro pediatrician.
She said that her group, the Brattleboro Committee for Improved Oral Health, is supported by the Vermont Department of Health and a body of evidence from the medical community in favor of fluoridation. Her group is composed primarily of dentists, doctors, and dental hygienists, she said.
Herzog cited two recent studies — a review of the literature by the British Medical Society and a 1993 report by the National Research Council — which confirmed the committee’s view that current uses, including municipal fluoridation, do not pose health risks.
“I certainly, unequivocally support it,” she said. “It has many benefits and it has no hazards.”
She added that 1986 and 1994 studies in Vermont showed a higher incidence of tooth decay among Brattleboro schoolchildren, compared with towns that fluoridate.