LAYTON — Several of the scientists opposed to fluoridation who addressed a packed house here Friday night were amazed at the number of people who showed up for the so-called fluoride debate.

“You’re obviously very well organized. I’ve never spoken before a group as large as this,” said Dr. William Hirzy. He is a senior scientist and ranking chemist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and senior vice president of the EPA headquarters Professionals’ Union which opposes fluoridation. That sentiment was echoed by Dr. Rogers Masters, a Fulbright fellow and by Dr. Hardy Limeback, a Canadian dentist.

The meeting was held at the Davis County Conference Center, and was so popular that extra chairs had to be brought in.

Most attending were opposed to fluoridated water and were eager to hear the views of the noted scientists. No pro-fluoride speakers were present. Members of Utahns for Better Dental Health declined to participate saying they had not been consulted as to the time, place or format, but were told to participate in the event.

Davis County residents narrowly passed a fluoridation bill in 2000, and the county now has fluoridated water in all its water systems except in Woods Cross, where voters defeated it. Voters will again consider the issue next Tuesday.

Hirzy presented figures from a variety of studies which showed, “a solid link of fluoride with bone cancer in young men, among a host of other diseases.”

Hirzy, who said he didn’t represent the EPA, but the union, nevertheless said that the EPA admits that fluoride is a waste product “considered air pollution when it’s in the air, and water pollution when it’s in water, but put it in a tank and it’s magic.”

Hirzy was joined on the stage by three other scientists, all of whom oppose fluoridation.

Limeback, a Canadian dentist and researcher specializing in tooth development and fluoride toxicology, at one time backed water fluoridation, but after studying the issue changed his mind. Today, he said, more in the scientific community are backing away from endorsing the substance.

Limeback spoke to the dental aspects of fluoridation, saying that the decay rates are similar in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

He said that based on the $4.39 per person per year, cited by the Davis County Health Department, it will cost $16 million to fluoridate but will save only $2.5 to $5 million in fillings. “It will cost four times more for fluoridation.”

He said that only children under age 8 may benefit and that senior citizens, already at risk for brittle bones, may be more susceptible.

Limeback read from a tube of Crest toothpaste, “If you accidentally swallow more than is used for brushing (a pea-sized drop is recommended), seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately. “There’s no warning label on a half a glass of water,” he said.

Joe Walls, a water operator from Arkansas who wound up ill after inhaling fluoride on his job site sat in the audience. Near the end of the meeting he addressed those present, telling them that doctors don’t know how to treat overexposure to fluoridation. “Accidents will happen,” he said. “If fluoride does pass, make sure your doctors know what to do.”