As long as passions are running hot and heavy in Allentown over whether to hock the city’s water system decades into the future, it may be a good time to consider whether to continue injecting poison into that system’s drinking water.
A little bit of poison won’t hurt anybody, it has been argued since the 1940s by the industrial giants desperate to find a way to get rid of the stuff, and by the politicians they grease, so nearly three-fourths of America’s public water systems are now fluoridated.
In Pennsylvania it’s less than 55 percent and in neighboring New Jersey it’s 13.5 percent, with only Hawaii forcing less fluoridated water down people’s gullets.
Allentown joined the frenzy to fluoridate on Nov. 28, 2000.
Hopefully, maybe that mistake will be reconsidered now that water is on everybody’s mind in the city, and now that there has been much more information available on the problems of fluoridation.
The city’s current water flap involves a proposal by Mayor Ed Pawlowski to lease city water and sewer systems for 50 years, in return for a quickie cash payment of between $150 million and $200 million.
That, the mayor says, is needed to deal with the staggering costs of the lavishly generous pensions City Hall provided to police officers and other city employees.
On Wednesday, The Morning Call reported that City Council rejected a ballot question to give voters a say on issues like the lease deal by requiring voter approval of any sale or lease involving more than $10 million in city assets. Actually, the issue still can go on the ballot, but the council action makes the referendum process take longer. Instead of a final vote in the May primary, voters would have to vote again in November to confirm the previous vote.
In October, I argued that the leasing scheme was a bad idea, but I also argued against the referendum approach for deciding issues. America, I noted, is a republic and in a republic we elect representatives to make decisions. When everything is subject to voter approval, government works about as well as it does in California, where ballot initiatives have created more chaos and woe than healthy democracy.
In any case, the ballot question approach to the water leasing plan is a hot item in Allentown, just as it was when the fluoridation plan was advanced in the 1990s. Efforts to put that plan on the ballot were stomped to death by city officials and fluorides have been added to city water ever since.
I have long opposed fluoridation of public water for two reasons.
First, the entire fluoridation movement began because of an enormously corrupt hoax engineered by government and industry people who wanted to find a way to get rid of a toxic byproduct. They came up with a successful crusade to sell it, reminiscent of Milo Minderbinder’s plan to sell chocolate-covered cotton in “Catch 22.”
Second, it’s a matter of principle. If you can justify governmental imposition of medication (supposedly aimed at tooth decay) by force, you can justify any forced medication, from birth control to Ritalin.
Such views have not always been received kindly, to put it mildly.
The late Charles Snelling, a prominent Lehigh Valley political and business leader, said in a 1998 column that my “diatribe” on fluoridation was “paranoid and demented.” A dentist, Jay Cohen, wrote a letter to the editor a few months later accusing me of advancing “irrational arguments supported by junk science.”
Since then, the credibility of fluoridation advocates has taken a beating.
In 2004, a book by acclaimed author Christopher Bryson confirmed what I had said all along about the fluoridation hoax. “The Fluoride Deception” documented and provided details about how the campaign to fluoridate public water actually came about.
Research showing that fluoridation was harmful or useless for dental health was suppressed and the campaign began in earnest with the production of nuclear weapons and the difficulty in getting rid of highly toxic byproducts (mainly fluorides). Similar problems affected other industries, especially aluminum manufacturing. Commercial fluoridation succeeded, Bryson found, after enormous industrial funding of the American Dental Association.
In most nations, the Milo Minderbinder schemes to sell the pollutant did not work.
Enlightened countries have almost eliminated forced fluoridation — Belgium, all of the Scandinavian countries, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and so forth. Ninety-nine percent of Western Europe has rejected it on principle or for scientific reasons. In 2006, Israel suspended fluoridation based on studies that showed it does more harm than good.
Similar trends are appearing in some American communities. Albuquerque got rid of it just last year and fluoridation pushers in Portland, Ore., face a referendum on it next year.
The industry that sells fluorides in America is powerful, however, and it’s nearly impossible to get politicians to reverse themselves. They’d rather stick needles in their eyes than admit they were wrong about something — for many years.
Still, if people in Allentown insist on ballot initiatives to decide water issues, why stop with just the leasing flap?
Paul Carpenter’s commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.