SPRINGFIELD – Debate about fluoridating water has been part of the public discourse nationwide for decades and the issue will resurface at City Hall Monday.
The City Council will consider a nonbinding resolution about fluoride at its 7:30 p.m. meeting in City Council Chambers that praises Springfield’s fluoride-free water supply.
Supporters say fluoride prevents tooth decay in children and is often the only dental care available to those in poverty.
Opponents say fluoride can be harmful if taken over long periods and the government should be prohibited from determining what individuals ingest. Many parents provide children with fluoride tablets.
The resolution from Councilors Angelo J. Puppolo Jr. and Domenic J. Sarno urges that an oral-health bill moving through the state Legislature be amended so cities and towns can retain the right to vote on whether they want fluoridation.
State Rep. Kathleen M. Teahan, D-Whitman, who is proposing the oral health bill, said yesterday part of the bill would remove the “home rule” ability of communities to decide for themselves about fluoride. It requires that cities and towns of at least 5,000 people without fluoridation begin treating water supplies.
Of the state’s 351 cities and towns, Teahan said, 135 fluoridate water.
The state would help communities pay for fluoridation, though the bill doesn’t include deadlines and action on it is likely to come only late this year or early next year, she said.
The point is fluoridated water is a way to help children, she said.
“Dental infections … are the most prevalent diseases among children in our country … and it totally can be prevented,” she said.
But many disagree.
“We’re opposed to having our bodies physically changed by this chemical,” said Springfield chiropractor Stephen A. Dean, who has a history of fighting fluoridation.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element in the environment, but Dean, president of the Massachusetts Committee for Pure Water, said chemicals used in fluoridation can be harmful.
One such chemical is hydrofluorosilic acid. A spill of 110 gallons of that in Phoenix Feb. 4 prompted a downtown evacuation and sent 16 people to the hospital as a precaution. The acid can cause injuries similar to burns but only if touched, The Arizona Republic reported.
Trace amounts of arsenic and lead usually are found with hydrofluorosilic acid, the paper reported.
Debate about fluoride has seeped into the culture, sometimes humorously, as in the assertion by Gen. Jack D. Ripper that fluoride was a communist conspiracy in the 1964 movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”