A Novato woman spearheading a campaign to get fluoride out of Marin’s drinking water faced off Wednesday against a health sciences clinical professor well versed on fluoridation.
More than 50 people turned out for a Marin Coalition luncheon at The Club at McInnis in San Rafael where Dawna Gallagher-Stroeh, director of Clean Water Sonoma-Marin and wife of former Marin Municipal Water District manager Dietrich Stroeh, debated the fluoridation issue with Dr. Howard Pollick, clinical professor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry.
Gallagher-Stroeh led an unsuccessful effort to put an initiative on the November ballot that would have required MMWD to stop adding fluoride to its water until it could provide residents with more information on the process. A 1995 state law requires all public water systems with more than 10,000 connections to provide fluoridated water.
Pollick said fluoridation trials conducted in the 1940s showed the effectiveness of adding fluoride to water. He said the trials “demonstrated that what they thought was going to happen actually did happen. The children they were following had 60 percent less tooth decay on average and far fewer teeth extracted because of tooth decay.”
Pollick said every U.S. surgeon general has supported fluoridation and more than 100 national and international organizations — including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization — endorse the practice.
Pollick recommended the book “The Fluoride Wars: How a Modest Public Health Measure Became America’s Longest Running Political Melodrama,” published in 2009, for a comprehensive look at the controversy that has dogged fluoridation since its inception.
Pollick said authors of that book “certainly say that the evidence on effectiveness of fluoride in reducing tooth decay is indisputable.”
And Pollick said, “Last year, the United States Public Health Service reviewed all of the evidence and found that it is safe and effective.”
But Gallagher-Stroeh said, “Fluoride does not work when ingested, and there is not one single study that shows it is safe. You don’t need it. It shouldn’t be in your body.”
She said that fluoride binds in the body with Vitamin D and iodine.
“It messes up the metabolism of your stomach and alters the way your bone is made,” Gallagher-Stroeh said. “Fluoride is the most reactive halogen on the periodic table. It was used to make ‘The Bomb.’ That is how we know it causes skeletal porosis.”
She asserted that there are 300 studies that show that fluoride is a neurotoxin capable of lowering intelligence quotient levels.
“I’ve met a lot of retired doctors who have told me they used fluoride to lower thyroid levels in hyperthyroid people back in the 1950s, until such time as they were told it was an endocrine disrupter,” said Gallagher-Stroeh.
Pollick said fluoride is one of 118 elements in the periodic table.
“Fluoride is naturally occurring in the ocean, in sea water,” he said. “Our bones, the bones of all vertebrates, have fluoride.”
Pollick said fluoride is safe in the diluted quantities used in the fluoridation process.
“It’s not the substance but the dose that determines whether a substance is a poison or a remedy,” he said.
The speakers took audience questions and comments following their presentations.
“It’s very easy to get in our bubble,” said Rita Lanphier, past president of the Marin County Dental Society. “Yes, we have education. We know how to take care of our teeth, but there are a lot of people who don’t.”
Lanphier said for people who don’t or can’t get to a dentist regularly fluoridation can really help.
Sangita Moskow said, “I don’t want to be forced to take fluoride because somebody says it is OK. I’ve done big research on this. Just go to the internet and look at all of the videos out there, and make up your mind.”
To which Pollick cautioned, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”