Despite all the uncertainty with its continued operations, the chaos surrounding the North Country Children’s Clinic has resolved one key issue: The city of Watertown cannot now possibly consider removing fluoride from its supply of drinking water.
The clinic came close to shutting its doors last week because it was running out of money. But an agreement reached Thursday between representatives of the clinic, the New York State Department of Health and Samaritan Medical Center kept the agency open for the time being.
This is great news for the numerous people who use the clinic’s services. The vital health care program offered through the agency will go on at least for the next few weeks.
The North Country Children’s Clinic, however, has faced this crisis moment time and again almost since it was founded in the early 1970s. Officials have always scrambled to procure emergency funds to avoid a disruption of services.
One of those services is dental health care. The clinic is one of the very few facilities left that will accept Medicaid to pay for dental care.
If the agency eventually closes, an unknown number of children will not have access to good dental care any longer. Some dedicated activists have put pressure on Watertown officials to stop putting fluoride in the city’s water supply, but the potential loss of the clinic’s services gives new urgency to this practice.
Jasmine W. Borreggine was part of a group of people who began attending City Council meetings to state their opposition to fluoridated water. She ran in the Sept. 10 primary for City Council but was not one of the four candidates to advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
This group has exaggerated the potential hazards of fluoride and used bogus claims to preface its position.
In a meeting with editors of the Watertown Daily Times earlier this year, Mrs. Borreggine said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned people not to use fluoridated water in baby formula. In fact, the CDC merely informed people that using fluoridated water in baby formula increases the likelihood that infants may develop a mild case of dental fluorosis. The CDC said, “In the United States, the majority of dental fluorosis is mild and appears as white spots that are barely noticeable and difficult for anyone except a dental health care professional to see.”
The Facebook page maintained by opponents of fluoridated water in Watertown portrays graphics with dire warnings. One of them claims the Nazis used fluoride as a way to pacify Jews during the Holocaust.
This myth has been thoroughly debunked by Holocaust experts. If members of the anti-fluoride crowd wish to have people take them seriously, they must have more respect for the truth.
Fluoridated water has been a tremendous public health policy for decades, and there’s no reason to stop it now. There are measures people can take to regulate the amount of fluoride to which they and their children are exposed if they are concerned about its effects, and this is sensible.
But what started as an attempt to reduce tooth decay among American children remains a crucial goal. The shaky financial ground upon which the North Country Children’s Clinic rests makes fluoridated water an ongoing necessity.