Saying the practice takes away the right of consumers to make medical choices and possibly inflicts serious harm on children, opponents of adding fluoride to public water argued Wednesday that a glass of water should contain water — and nothing else.
At an informal hearing at the state Capitol called by state Sen. Joe Markley, chemist Paul Connett called on state lawmakers to abolish the state’s flouridation law and forbid communities from putting additives in water supplies to improve public health.
“We should never use the public water supply to deliver medicine,” said Connett, a retired Dartmouth [sic, should be St. Lawrence University] professor and leading fluoridation critic. “No doctor could do to us what the state of Connecticut is doing.”
Since the early 1960s, the federal government has recommended that municipal water supplies contain a certain amount of flouride to help prevent tooth decay and cavities among those who drink from it, especially low-income families who might not be able to afford regular dental care.
Connecticut passed a law in 1965 mandating that public water supplies serving more than 20,000 people have a fluoride concentration of at least [.8] milligrams per liter. This tiny concentration has virtually no effect on the smell, taste or appearance of tap water.
But Markley, a Republican from Southington, put forth legislation this year to abolish Connecticut’s policy, saying that it unfairly adds an extra expense to cash-strapped town budgets. The bill failed, but Markley said he’ll bring it back next year. On Wednesday, he said he wanted both sides of the fluoridation debate to make their case.
“As a principle, politically, I try to listen to everybody as much as possible,” Markley said. “I like to hear people who know what they’re talking about differ on a topic.”
Speaking for more than an hour, Connett presented several studies that he said prove fluoridation is actually harmful, that it can have adverse effects on tooth enamel, as well as damaging impacts on bones and brains of young children.
Even if fluoride were medically beneficial, he said, it shouldn’t be put in the water by government. Instead, people should choose whether they want to buy and use fluoride themselves, as they would any other medication.
But absent from Wednesday’s discussion were dentists, who widely support the fluoridation policy.
Connecticut State Dental Association President Mark Desrosiers said in an interview that his group had accepted an invitation from Markley. But they backed out when they heard Connett would be there. The association instead sent a letter that Markley read aloud at the hearing.
“We’re very interested in getting the information and history and the science of fluoride out to people,” said Desrosiers, who practices in suburban Hartford. “But we wanted to avoid emotional debates and sensationalism. We just didn’t want to have any part of that.”
The dentists insisted that fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found in the earth’s crust and most of its water. They cited their own studies showing that fluoride prevents cavities and has saved the country nearly $40 billion in dental costs over nearly five decades.
Connett was the only speaker at Wednesday’s hearing, but a handful of supporters looked on as he made his points. Bristol resident Anne Skorupski was among them; she said she’s been buying bottled water for her pets for decades so as not to expose them to flouride.
After the hearing, she confronted Markley, saying she had wanted Connett to have more time to talk about the possibly negative effects of human fluoride consumption on the environment.
“I know the dentists aren’t going to admit it at all,” said Skorupski, a retired librarian.
State researchers estimate that 91 percent of Connecticut residents with access to public water receive fluoride, a higher proportion than in most states. The Centers for Disease Control has said the nationwide decline in tooth decay resulting from public fluoridation is among the nation’s greatest health successes in the last 50 years.
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