CHICOPEE – Aldermen are being asked to reject a state proposal that would fluoridate Chicopee’s water supply.
The Public Safety Committee voted Monday against the state Legislature’s Oral Health Bill, which would overturn current law allowing communities to vote on fluoridating their water.
“We wanted to go on record as being against it,” said At-large Alderman Robert J. Zygarowski, who chairs the safety panel. “Plus, there’s no funding for it.”
Chicopee’s water is not fluoridated. The issue has come before voters several times, but has been rejected.
“Every single time, it’s been voted down by the citizens of Chicopee,” said Michael A. Pepe, the city’s health director.
State legislators who favor the Oral Health bill “are trying to force (fluoridation) down our throats,” Zygarowski said. “We want to have that choice.”
Pepe said he supports the safety panel’s action even though he believes fluoridated drinking water is beneficial.
“But I don’t believe you should have to have it in your water,” he said.
Since 1950, the American Dental Association has supported using small amounts of fluoride in drinking water to prevent tooth cavities and promote dental health. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends fluoride concentrations in drinking water range from 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.
But some critics charge fluoride is toxic and causes a variety of health problems.
The city’s Health Department has several fluoride options available to school-age children, if parents approve, according to Colette B. Gelinas, the department’s dental hygienist.
Students in nine public and two private schools in grades two through five receive a weekly fluoride mouth rinse.
A fluoride varnish, which Gelinas describes as “one step up” from the mouth rinse is given to some students. That program is being underwritten by the city’s two Knights of Columbus councils, she said.
Eighty-seven percent of eligible schoolchildren participate in the mouth rinse program and 68 percent in the varnish program, she said.
Water fluoridation has the best public benefit, Gelinas said, because ingested fluoride becomes part of the tooth enamel and also protects children’s developing teeth.
In addition to the 20-year-old fluoride programs, the Health Department also provides dental-education programs in schools, arranges for dental screenings by volunteer dentists and assists in the Parent-Teacher Organization distribution of tooth brushes and toothpaste to elementary school pupils.
“We really have a very comprehensive program,” Gelinas said.