BELLOWS FALLS — This village will be the third community in the state this year to question whether fluoride should be added to municipal water supplies.
Residents are scheduled to tackle the controversial topic in May.
Bellows Falls voters who attend the annual village meeting May 15 will be asked if the municipality should continue its 30-year tradition of adding the tooth decay-battling additive to the local water supply.
At town meeting last month, voters in Burlington and Montpelier both cast their ballots in favor of keeping the chemical in their water systems.
“I’m shocked that we are arguing about a poison and how much of a poison we are supposed to take in,” said Luise Light, a local nutritionist and member of the Bellows Falls Board of Trustees who first raised the question last year.
The Bellows Falls Water District has added fluoride to the water it supplies to the village, Bellows Falls Union High School and parts of Rockingham and Westminster since the 1960s.
Floyd LaFoe, chief operator of the Bellows Falls Water Treatment facility, said he adds 1 milligram of fluoride per liter to the water, at the cost of about $2,400 a year.
“I’m staying out of this debate,” he said. “The voters should decide.”
The debate over fluoride has raged for more than 50 years, with nearly every mainstream medical association agreeing that fluoride is one of the most effective methods of fighting tooth decay in children.
The love for fluoride was so great that in 1999 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called it one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Steve Arthur, director of oral health service for the Vermont Department of Health, praised the additive last year.
“The vast bulk of evidence still suggests that it is safe and effective,” he told the Herald in August 2005. “To this date, the CDC and other major health organizations are extremely supportive of fluoridation.”
But several recent studies have bolstered anti-fluoride activists’ claims that the chemical is highly dangerous.
Last month, a National Academy of Sciences panel released a report stating the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for natural-occurring fluoride in drinking water are too high.
The report stated the EPA’s standard of 4 milligrams per liter could lead to severe tooth enamel fluorosis, the discoloration of the teeth through enamel loss, in children. Consumption over a lifetime could lead to increased bone fractures, the report also read.
“After reviewing the collective evidence on adverse health effects associated with fluoride, our committee concluded unanimously that EPA should lower the maximum contaminant level goal for fluoride,” said John Doull, chairman of the committee studying the issue said at a March 22 press news conference, according to a transcript on the Academy of Sciences Web page.
Brattleboro voters narrowly rejected a measure to add fluoride to their water system six years ago, and residents in Bennington have voted against similar proposals several times, most recently in 2002.