PORTSMOUTH – In the movie “Dr. Strangelove,” the character called Col. Jack D. Ripper railed against the dangers of fluoridation of water.
He said fluoridation was conjured up as a Communist plot, designed, as Ripper so famously put it in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 movie, “to sap our precious bodily fluids.”
Ripper’s character was written in true satirical fashion: He was loopy and over-the-top, but what he said was supposed to have a ring of truth to it.
Everything, except this fluoridation business. No one quite believed that. But now some believe Ripper may have been ahead of his time.
Wednesday night, in Dover, the Sierra Club will hold a public information seminar called “Fluoridation of Our Water: A Benefit/Risk Update” with a talk by teacher and science writer Gerhard Bedding.
The talk begins at 7 p.m. in the Dover City Hall Auditorium.
Dover and Portsmouth are two New Hampshire communities that fluoridate their public water supply. The goal of the seminar, said a Sierra Club spokesman, is to provide information to residents about the subject in case the process of fluoridation were ever to come up to a vote in the future.
Dave Allen, deputy public works director for the city of Portsmouth, said the city’s drinking water is absolutely safe.
Jim Sconyers, conservation chairman for the New Hampshire Sierra Club, said fluoridation of water dates back to the 1950s, when toothpastes were first being fluoridated. Given the proven track record that fluoride in toothpastes had, Sconyers said “it seemed logical to put it in people’s water.”
However, Sconyers said it made sense to revisit an issue that was essentially decided for communities 40 to 50 years ago.
The national Sierra Club has taken the stand that the issue of fluoridation should be rethought, said Sconyers, the conservation chairman for the New Hampshire Sierra Club.
Adding fluoride to water has come under fire by opponents who say it can act as a harmful toxin – not a helpful nutrient – when added to municipal water supplies.
Bedding, the speaker at the seminar, is a science writer and teacher who maintains the fluoride in water systems is a byproduct of the fertilizer industry and that its health benefits “have been greatly exaggerated.”
Sconyers said fluoridation was always assumed to “be a good thing. That was something we took for granted but something that doesn’t turn out to be justified.”Among the topics to be discussed Wednesday are:
* What are the risks of fluoridation?
* Are the benefits that we take for granted real?
* Why are decision-makers, including the New Hampshire Legislature, having second thoughts about fluoridation of the public’s water?
Allen said fluoridation is supported by some powerful and trusted organizations.
“The bottom line is the American Dental Association endorses fluoridation very strongly and feels its benefits outweigh any negatives.”
Allen said “in its concentrated form fluoride is very corrosive, but when used in the quantities for the purposes of fluoridating water, they are very minute and therefore do not exhibit those corrosive behaviors.”
When asked if the city’s water was unsafe to drink, Allen said, “No, absolutely not.”