ATHOL — Fluoride has been in the town’s water for more than 50 years, and it will continue to be added after a vote last night rejecting a call to end the practice.
The call for ending fluoridation was defeated after residents heard from Health Agent Philip D. Leger, who said the Board of Health voted 3-0 in favor of supporting fluoridation. He said more than 100 national and international organizations agree that fluoridation is beneficial.
Voters heard from several supporters of fluoridation, including retired educator Mitchell Grosky, who said he researched the issue extensively before the meeting.
Mr. Grosky said his conclusion is that while isolated articles and isolated research can be found against the use of fluoride, there have been hundreds of surveys validating the reasons for adding it to water.
“My concern is people would take away this beneficial, this proven benefit from others because they don’t want it for their children,” he said.
Mr. Grosky said fluoride in water is the best way for people to get fluoride for their dental health.
“Fluoride in water, adjusted to appropriate levels, is no threat to the public,” he said.
Carolyn Salls, one of the residents seeking an end to fluoridation, said the fluoride in water is a chemical waste by-product. She said there is significant evidence from scientists that fluoride is hazardous.
“There are not enough studies done to prove it is safe, so we shouldn’t use it,” she said.
Ms. Salls said residents should have the right to decide whether they want fluoride, rather than having it put in everyone’s drinking water.
Dr. Wayne Miller, a member of the Board of Selectmen and an enthusiastic supporter of fluoridation, said that in the nearly 60 years the town has had fluoride in its water, there has never been a problem. He urged voters to reject the effort to eliminate it from the water.
“Basically you’re voting for your children and grandchildren,” he said. “There has been 60 years of benefit.”
Resident Earle Baldwin added that in his opinion voters should not consider such a major step as eliminating something that has been in use for more than 50 years without holding hearings.
“This is probably the worst venue to start this discussion,” he said.
Mr. Baldwin said if the town were to consider eliminating fluoridation, it should bring together experts to discuss the issue and look at both sides.
“I’d like to see this dumped tonight,” he said.
When Town Moderator Lawrence P. McLaughlin called for a vote, only a handful raised their hands in support of eliminating fluoridation.
The town meeting ended before 9 p.m., in part because all money-related articles were delayed until June 8, when the meeting will reconvene.
During a special town meeting held before the annual town meeting last night, voters also approved changing the date of the annual town meeting permanently.
The town’s annual town meeting is held every year on the fourth Monday after the annual town election in April. With state aid figures often not available until well into June, it was decided that holding the meeting the second Monday in June makes more sense. The voters then voted to adjourn the special town meeting until June 8.
At the start of the annual town meeting, voters approved delaying voting on eight articles until June 8 to give more time for the state to provide local aid figures.