KENNEBUNK, Maine — The Board of Selectmen heard differing opinions on fluoride in the town’s drinking water last week and has scheduled a special meeting to continue discussions.
The board held its first discussion on the topic during its July 8 meeting after it was raised by resident Janice Hanson during a June 22 meeting. Hanson and others are working to place a warrant article on the November ballot that would ask voters to remove fluoride from the water system.
“We’re most concerned about the health of our children and senior citizens,” Hanson said. “Fluoride is a pollutant that can be removed from our drinking water by simply turning off the spigot.”
Hanson called fluoride a neurotoxin that is “in our water supply and administered to us as an unregulated drug.”
Voters in 2002 supported fluoridating the water provided by the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, which provides water to Kennebunk and the surrounding towns of Kennebunkport, Wells, Arundel, Ogunquit, and portions of York and Biddeford.
Four of those seven towns would have to support placing the question on the November ballot before Aug. 5 in order for it to be placed on the ballot, said Norm Labbe, superintendent of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District. The question also has to go before voters during a gubernatorial or presidential election, he said.
“The Water District feels that the topic of fluoridation in its water supply should be voted on at this year’s election in November,” Labbe said. “With the large amount of information available today about the safety and efficacy of the ingestion of fluoride there is ample opportunity for the public to reconsider their decision.”
But dentists who attended last week’s meeting say there is a reason for fluoride in water and that there are benefits.
The differences dentists see in oral health between those whose water is fluoridated and those who do not have fluoridated water is “tremendous,” said Lisa Howard, who lives in Kennebunk and practices in Scarborough.
“Americans have the nicest teeth in the world for one reason and one reason only and that is prevention,” said dentist Joe Kenneally, who lives in Kennebunk. “I urge you not to change your mind about fluoridation. You probably have a nice set of teeth because of it.”
Labbe said the primary mission of the water district is safety.
“Two of our priorities are the safety of the public and the safety of our employees. This issue is more than the statistical reduction of dental cavities,” Labbe said. “It’s a very polarized issue. I’ve studied both sides. What we’re saying is the decision should be rethought by the public. Give them a chance to look at it again and with the information that’s come out.”
Selectman Dick Morin struggled with his opinion on the topic. At the beginning of the meeting, after Hanson and Labbe presented their positions, Morin said they changed his mind and he thought doing away with fluoridation was a “sound decision.”
After hearing from the dentists, Morin said he was in a “catch 22.”
“I liked your presentation,” he said to Hanson, “but I think more information is needed.”
Board members also expressed a concern on the timing, scheduling the special meeting for July 22.
“I take drugs for high blood pressure. If I took the whole bottle tonight, I wouldn’t be around tomorrow. You hear from professionals that say there is a good use of this. Then there’s always the other side,” said Selectmen Dave Spofford. “I think it should be something that the people vote on. I just think we’re up against the wall on this right now.”