Here is a recap of the Nov. 1 Rutland aldermanic meeting, as it pertains to my request that the board take a fresh look at fluoridation of the city water supply. I understand that the Herald can’t cover everything, but I believe this issue is important, as indicated by a significant turnout of people. All who spoke from the public were against fluoridation.
I requested a spot on the board’s agenda to ask for a fresh look at fluoridation of the city water supply. I did this in consideration of new board members who had not heard my previous presentations on fluoridation. (The city began fluoridation in 1984.) I also wanted to bring to the board’s attention the latest fluoride research, particularly on fluoride’s potential harm to brain development of young children being bottle-fed and fetuses in the womb.
At the start of comments, Alderman Tom DePoy asked if fluoride was in the just-submitted mayor’s budget. No one at the meeting seemed to know, but on Friday, Nov. 5, Public Works Commissioner James Rotondo confirmed to me that there was $7,500 in the budget for the coming year.
Here’s some of what was said:
Greg Cox, a West Rutland farmer and driving force behind the Vermont Farmers Food Center, stated, “I grow clean food, and I like to drink clean water … I don’t dispute that fluoride has been a boon in preventing tooth decay … but if anybody has kept up with it (research), topical application is the best.” By that, he meant direct application of fluoride to the teeth, as opposed to drinking it. Cox said that when he visits a restaurant in Rutland he does not drink the water “because I have to watch out for my own personal health.”
Chris Siliski, a former alderman and police commissioner, asked for a “full, fair, objective discussion” of fluoridation, saying it was “important for many of us.” He added, “My own position is, I simply don’t wish that the government put chemicals in my drinking water.” He also said he was “very much pro-vaccine,” but unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, there are numerous opportunities to get fluoride elsewhere than from the water supply.
Ada Pezzetti, of Rutland, asked the board to reconsider fluoridation, saying “more and more evidence is showing that adding fluoride is detrimental in many ways.” “My main concern,” she said, “is, I think medicating an entire community by adding it to the water supply is taking away a basic right to pure water.” She said she has been buying water for years because she feels so strongly that fluoride is a medication, and there are other ways to ensure healthy teeth.
Peg Flory, a former long-serving state senator, was raised in Rutland, lived in Pittsford for many years, and now has returned to Rutland. Describing herself as a “strong supporter of fluoride” who makes sure her toothpaste contains it, she pointed out its hazards to certain individuals, including her son and grandson, both of whom suffer from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition. She related that doctors had warned her not to let them consume fluoridated water.
“When my son and my grandson come up to the house, I can no longer pour them a glass of water,” she said. “I have to go and buy bottled water for them to drink. So I guess that I’m asking that you look at the science and rethink this whole idea.”
Bob Amelang, a city resident, said simply he was “in support of any action that would end fluoridation in Rutland, for all the reasons” that had been given.
Kathleen Krevetski, of Rutland, has been active locally on the pure-water front for years. She said that ending fluoridation would be an economic development boon to the city, giving it a reputation for clean water.
Lois Steinberg, of Rutland, born and raised here and now returned, said she was about to install a reverse osmosis system in her house to remove the fluoride. She said, “I think truly that good oral hygiene for children comes from learning how to floss and brush” and that fluoride is “not even … that important.”
Ryan Yoder, a farmer from Danby, noted that his parents live in Rutland, as do a lot of his customers from the Farmers Market. He said, “There’s quite ample evidence that it’s a neurotoxin, that it can exacerbate osteoporosis in elderly people … The main problem, whether it’s effective for dental purposes or not, … is that it’s medicating an entire population without their consent, and that is unethical and shouldn’t be done.”
Theresa Haywood, a nurse practitioner from Rutland, cited the highly regarded Cochrane Review, which compiles information for health care decision-making. She said Cochrane’s 2015 review of fluoridation left her with three “takeaways:” 1) that there was “insufficient evidence demonstrating effectiveness of fluoride in water at preventing cavities,” 2) that “there’s no demonstration of increased cavities after they discontinue it,” and 3) that “there is significant association between dental esthetic concerns and fluoride level, and that’s something called fluorodosis, and that’s white streaking.”
Anna Tadio, of Rutland, said she spent four years as a student in Portland, Oregon, which removed fluoride from its water supply. “They have a very healthy population of 600,000 people who drink that water, and not only does that water taste better, but the people are healthy, and there hasn’t been an increase in cavities in this particular population of people.”
Following these presenters, I talked briefly. I said that the neurotoxic effect on children’s developing brains was the main talking point of the anti-fluoridation movement, but other harms were part of the discussion. Noting the ongoing research, I urged a “better-safe-than-sorry” approach.
I noted that here in Rutland there is no effort to warn parents or pregnant women that fluoride poses a risk that could be reduced by purchasing spring water. I noted that the whole public health system seems to take its cues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that the federal government has promoted fluoridation for 70 years now.
At the conclusion of my remarks, Alderman Michael Talbott said, “Everybody who spoke made compelling points. I’m open to examining this further, and I make a motion to refer to public works (the Public Works Committee).” The motion was seconded and later passed unanimously.
Alderman Paul Clifford, chair of the Public Works Committee, asked me if the Department of Health had seen the information I had presented or whether I had gotten any feedback. I haven’t gotten feedback from the state Department of Health, I said. However, I pointed out that the scientific studies are “out there” and in fact, were part of a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in California.
Alderman Clifford said he had no problem taking another look at the issue, but he reminded the audience that the city had taken a vote on the issue (in 2016). The result favored continuation of fluoridation by a 3 to 2 margin. Clifford said that “by charter” fluoridation comes under the purview of the public works commissioner. He said he would need to consult with the city attorney to see whether, if the committee decided to make a change, the board “could, in fact, do that or ask to go to a public vote again.” Because of budget deliberations, he was not sure when the discussion of fluoridation would happen, but he agreed it would take place.
Alderman Sharon Davis said that if the matter went to committee, it would be important that “we hear both sides of the story.” The Health Department and dentists “should be noticed as well,” she said. She said the board needed to “revisit the power that the board has,” as far as removing fluoride is concerned.
A recording of the meeting may be found on the pegtv.com website. Go to the “Video on Demand” tab and select Channel 1085, which is labeled “Government.” Go to “Playlists.” Among the playlists, find PEG-TV 1085-GOVT Municipal. Scroll down the alphabetical list and find “Rutland City Board of Aldermen — Nov. 1, 2021.” The portion of the meeting devoted to fluoridation lasted about half an hour, beginning at about the 18-minute mark.
Jack Crowther lives in Rutland.
*Original commentary titled, Crowther: Aldermen discuss city fluoridation, online at https://www.rutlandherald.com/opinion/commentary/crowther-aldermen-discuss-city-fluoridation/article_ed2cb955-522a-5d12-a22b-8a159b65ef10.html