On Jan. 17, I spoke “outside the rail” at the meeting of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen. I requested that a public hearing be held at which the commissioner of public works, James Rotondo, would present his reasons for fluoridating the public water supply and answer questions. Alderman Michael Talbott made a motion to have such a hearing, seconded by Alderman Joe Barbagallo. In the voting, board members Thomas Franco and Carrie Savage supported the motion. Members Sharon Davis, Tom DePoy and Bill Gillam voted against the motion.
Although a 4-3 majority voted “yes,” the motion failed because of a procedural rule requiring six votes for passage. Two aldermen were absent, and one board seat is vacant.
This latest vote on Jan. 17 followed a fresh look at fluoridation by the Public Works Committee in October. The committee made no recommendation to the full board, so the matter died.
A key factor in this sequence of events was a city attorney’s opinion that the authority to fluoridate or not belonged exclusively to Public Works commissioner Rotondo. Essentially, fluoridation is the commissioner’s business, not the board’s.
In November, after the Public Works Committee’s review of fluoridation, I requested the board add to the March 7 annual meeting warning an item asking whether voters would change the city charter and prohibit the addition of fluoride to city water. The board declined to act formally on my request, thereby denying it. At the next board meeting, Dec. 5, I again asked for a March 7 vote on a charter change, objecting to how my request was handled Nov. 21. This time, the issue came to a vote but was defeated.
With the means to ending fluoridation being blocked left and right, I then requested on Jan. 17 the public hearing with Commissioner Rotondo. Although he has authority over fluoridation, he did not take part in the reexamination of the program back in October. I surmise that he has simply chosen to go with the status quo and continue fluoridation, but that is for him to say. Fluoridation is favored by Mayor David Allaire, who appointed Rotondo, and apparently by most board members, who oversee his and the mayor’s budget requests. The political context also includes an advisory vote in 2016, when Rutland voters favored continuing fluoridation by a 3-2 margin. I ask, can a majority of voters force medication upon a minority who do not consent to it?
Here are questions I think Rotondo, as the fluoridation decision-maker, needs to answer at a public hearing:
Is he comfortable medicating the Rutland City water supply, inasmuch as fluoride is considered a drug by the FDA? Since fluoride is added to the water to treat a disease, tooth decay, and is not an essential nutrient, it must be considered medicine.
Is he comfortable with the fact that there is no control over the dosage received by those drinking city water, since water consumption varies greatly from person to person? Is he comfortable discharging fluorosilicic acid, the chemical added to Rutland’s water, into the environment? Fluorosilicic acid is a hazardous waste under U.S. law and cannot be disposed of in rivers, lakes or the ocean.
Yet millions of gallons of fluoridated water wind up in Otter Creek and Lake Champlain, after passing through Rutlanders’ bodies and plumbing systems. The commissioner and his predecessors have long grappled with pollution caused by overflows of our sewage system and storm runoff. How can this form of pollution not be of concern? Is he concerned with liability claims that may result from harm caused by ingestion of fluoride? Scientific studies increasingly point to possible and likely harm from fluoride, such as loss of IQ, mottling and staining of tooth enamel, impairment of kidney and thyroid function, and other effects. Does he believe the benefits of fluoridation outweigh the health risks and attendant liability of the city?
Jack Crowther lives in Rutland.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.rutlandherald.com/opinion/commentary/crowther-fluoridation-issues/article_3ac9fe75-bbdd-5ff1-996b-f3c2d9b930f1.html