Fluoride Action Network

Can the voters be trusted to decide on fluoridation?

Source: The Union Leader | Guest Commentary
Posted on June 29th, 2004

THE LEGISLATURE is requiring a revote on fluoridation in Manchester as well as a first-time vote in most of the surrounding towns. This vote will take place at the primary elections on Sept. 14. A simple majority of all voters will decide whether hydrofluorosilicic acid will continue to be added to the area’s drinking water.

In 1999 Manchester voters decided by a narrow 51.5 percent majority to fluoridate the water. None of the towns using Manchester water had any say in this decision.

In addition to Manchester, Bedford, Goffstown, Hooksett and Londonderry will vote in September. Derry and Auburn cannot. Why are they being denied a vote?

Senate Bill 449, sponsored by Sen. Lou D’Alessandro and Rep. William Beaton, originally proposed to legalize Manchester’s 1999 vote (later ruled illegal by the New Hampshire Supreme Court) as the deciding vote for the whole region. It was clear from the bill’s hearing that this denial of voters’ rights would not fly. The sponsors drafted a new version allowing only those directly connected to Manchester Water Works to vote.

The bill was then presented to the House Municipal and County Government Committee. This committee realized that the proposed restrictions would open a Pandora’s box of problems such as checking voters lists against lists of water users. Furthermore, even residents not receiving Manchester water at home might object to being excluded, arguing that when a hub city fluoridates, a “halo effect” is created impacting everyone in the region. People are exposed everywhere they go: school, workplace, restaurant, gym, etc., as well as by buying products prepared with Manchester water. Therefore, the House version of the bill sensibly proposed voting “. . . for the city of Manchester and other municipalities receiving water from the city of Manchester water works department.”

SB 449’s final stop was the Senate and House conference committee. There the above sentence was changed to read: “. . . the city of Manchester and other municipalities whose voters directly receive water from the city of Manchester water works department.” This change eliminated Derry, which buys water in bulk from Manchester. Auburn lost out as a result of a technicality elsewhere in the bill.

Thus SB 449’s sponsors tried to first eliminate and later restrict voting. Why, when fluoridation proponents have all the advantages, paid for with our taxes: establishment endorsements, vigorous promotion by health authorities, multiple bully pulpits at local health departments? Despite these advantages, fluoridation loses in most citizen votes. In 2001 Worcester, Mass., voted against fluoridation, despite an expenditure of over $400,000 by proponents compared to $7,000 by local safe-water groups. Fluoridation promoters dislike voting: They’d rather see states or city councils decide the issue for everyone. Can voters really be trusted to make the right decision?

What is the right decision? Most of the developed world has rejected fluoridation (Europe is 98 percent unfluoridated). Thousands of credentialed professionals oppose fluoridation, including 14 Nobel laureates. A vast body of peer-reviewed literature points at various health problems caused by fluoridation.

In recent years, the ingestion of fluoride by infants and young children has raised increasing concern. Dr. Hardy Limeback, head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto, warns mothers never to use fluoridated water for formula. Nobel laureate Arvid Carlsson, M.D., stated in 2003, “The amount of fluoride in fluoridated tap water — often used for mixing baby formula — is 100 times higher than the level in mothers’ milk. I am worried what this will do to the baby’s developing brain cells.”

The latest issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition states: “Our results suggest that the fluoride contribution of water used to reconstitute formulas increases risk of fluorosis.” (Fluoros is: mottling of teeth caused by ingesting fluoride.)

The Centers for Disease Control recently conceded fluoride works primarily by topical means (direct contact), not by ingestion. Dentists Warren and Levy conclude, “. . . ingestion of fluoride is not essential for caries prevention.” (Dental Clinics of North America, April 2003).

Soon a majority vote will decide the issue for the Manchester area. A majority vote is OK for electing a candidate, but it should not impinge on individual freedom of choice in an area of preventive medicine.

Gerhard Bedding is a science writer and director of the N.H. Pure Water Coalition. He can be reached at 355-2202.