CONCORD — A bill before the state House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee to establish a study committee to reevaluate the benefits and risks of fluoridated water drew spirited testimony yesterday, most of it opposing fluoridation.
But the bulk of testimony was in favor of the idea of forming a study committee that would make recommendations to the governor and legislative leadership by Nov. 1.
Rep. Barbara Hull Richardson, D-Richmond, a co-sponsor of the bill, said there is a growing controversy about fluoridating water and it makes sense to establish a subcommittee to evaluate the health benefits and risks involved. Senator Jane O’Hearn, R-Nashua, and Rep. Barbara French, D-Henniker, are the other co-sponsors.
Richardson said that in October of 1999 there was supposed to have been debate before adding fluoride to Manchester’s water supply, but there was none.
“It is interesting that those advocating mandatory fluoridation, who claimed to have all the scientific data on their side, were not willing to stand up and defend that evidence,” Richardson told the committee.
Dartmouth College research professor Roger E. Masters said that it’s essential to form a study committee, because the choice of chemical used for the purpose of fluoridating a public water supply is potentially a serious matter of public health.
Masters said that public drinking water is treated with hydrofluosilic acid or sodium silicofluoride in several New Hampshire communities, including Concord, Dover, Manchester, Portsmouth and Rochester.
“Our research shows these fluoridation chemicals have harmful effects not observed where sodium fluoride is used,” Masters said.
Masters added that studies show where silicofluorides are used, lead is more easily absorbed from environmental sources such as lead paint in old houses.
Opponents of fluoridation also question assertions that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. A letter presented to the committee from St. Lawrence University chemistry professor Paul Connett said that fluoride’s role in preventing tooth decay is in serious doubt and that fluoride has been found not to be an essential nutrient.
“No disease has ever been linked to a fluoride deficiency,” Connett wrote.
The lone defense of fluoride came from Brooks S. Dupee, Department of Health & Human Services assistant director of the Office of Community and Public Health. Dupee said that the study is unnecessary because there is aleady ample information available and nothing new is likely to be uncovered by a study committee.
The evidence shows that after 50 years of fluoride use throughout the country, there have been no harmful effects, Dupee said. Fluoride could be harmful only if used in very high concentrations, Dupee added. Dupee said there is evidence that fluroride used directly on teeth or through water supply does help in preventing tooth decay.
“We should be going after the real harmful things such as obesity, and alcohol, drug and tobacco use,” Dupee said.