Fluoridation took a blow to the teeth here last Thursday, but the Board of Health enlisted some assistance for another round which could feature a more positive outlook.

With snow and freezing rain causing two members of a scheduled panel to cancel plans to drive to North Attleborough from Worcester, and a third opting not to be “the only proponent,” a fluoride toxicity forum failed to live up to its premise in an event which attracted an audience of about 70 at town hall.

The three members of the panel, coincidentally from Toronto, Canada, Washington, D.C. and Burlington, Vt., each touted the dangers of fluoridating public water supplies.

North Attleborough Town Moderator Atty. Stephen Dalrymple filled in as moderator, and asked questions submitted mainly by members of the Health Board.

At least two of the audience made a point to note they had driven to the forum, from Worcester and Arlington, and that “the roads were fine.”

In response to a question from the audience, the trio who were at the table cited “personal donors” for assuming the cost of their travel. Board of Health members Deborah Morse and Diane Batistello chimed in, “no town funds were used.”

Board Chair Morse said the event was timely, with “a state mandate” (placing fluoridation in drinking water) “in the works.”

Also attending were Town Health Agent Karl Drown and Town Nurse Ann Marie Fleming.

With only the opponents on the panel, the premise of fluoride in public water supplies was given no support by the “professional” speakers.

The trio spoke on effects of fluoride toxicity, dental fluorsis, discoloring and spots on the teeth that result from excess use of fluoride. They also spoke on ingested and topical use of fluoride (toothpaste, etc.), newborns and breastfed children.

And noting the “proponents panelists” bowed out of the forum, both Dr. Hirzy and Connett chided them, but Hirzy added, “Not even private dentists want to come to discuss this issue.”

Connett said, “If you go to the 1950’s, you will start seeing statements fluoridation is beyond scientific debate.”

Moderator Dalrymple offered the panelists the questions quite well, occasionally asking for backup data in their response. Both Hirzy and Connett offered data from “studies” of fluoridation, Connett noting most European countries had not allowed the use of fluoride in their water supplies or had discontinued it.

In Scandinavia, Connett noted, where only “topical” ingestion of fluoride is used, tooth decay rates are “about the same as in a fluoridated water supply.”

Dr. Limeback also pointed out that on a daily basis, “we all take some fluoride into our bodies. And as we get older, it becomes ingested into our bones….and the bones suffer.”

Connett said the U.S. Public Health Dept. introduced fluoridation and later added, “the opinion evolved that ‘more is better’.” He referred to a book, “The Fluoridation Deception.” (sic)

The audience, several of them opponents of fluoridation, had an opportunity to question the panelists in the second half of the program.

From the audience were questions from former Selectman Luis Lema, former Charter Commissioner Gary Billingkoff, Anna DeMarinis, and Carol Kirby, among others, including Tim Mullen and Kathleen Fontaine of Plainville, and Eugene Mullen of NA.

Several of the panelists’ earlier remarks were challenged, as well as some being supported. Material ranged from osteoporosis to pets who ingest fluoride through the water, kidneys and…cancer.

Both Ms. DeMarinis, a former candidate for the Board of Health, and Ms. Kirby, a registered nurse who has worked in dental offices, both supporters of fluoridation, questioned the decision to conduct the forum without “the other side.”

Ms. Battistello offered to convene another forum, if Ms. Kirby would help. The latter agreed.

North Attleborough voters, in a referendum in 2000, supported fluoride in their water by 59-41 pct. Meanwhile, neighboring Plainville, which shares North Attleborough’s water supply, rejected the infusion of fluoride.
Invited panelists attending:

Dr. Hardy Limeback, a practicing dentist, dental researcher and professor at the University of Toronto;

Michael Connett, research director for the Fluoride Action Network in Burlington, Vt.;

Dr. J. William Hirzy, chemist and senior scientist in the Risk Assessment Division, Office of Pollution Prevention Protection, at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. He emphasized he was in town on behalf of the EPA’s union of professionals of which he is vice president.

Each of the trio is a staunch opponent of the use of fluoride in water supplies.

Those who did not attend:

—Dr. James Broadhurst, a family physician in Worcester and Shrewsbury since 1985 and medical director of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

—Kevin Kearney, an associate professior of bio-chemistry and director of service learning at the Mass. College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Worcester.

—Dr. Jose Pereira, a practicing pediatric dentist at Pediatric Dental Health Care in North Attleborough.

All are proponents of fluoridation of public water supplies.