GOFFSTOWN – Saying there is doubt about fluoride‘s safety, a majority of speakers decried using fluoridated water from Manchester in Goffstown during a public hearing last night at Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics.

About two dozen people turned out for the hearing. Some Manchester officials attended and fielded questions from the audience in a session that was moderated by Goffstown Selectmen Chairman Robert Wheeler.

Selectmen were anticipating a larger crowd and decided to hold the hearing in the auditorium rather than at town hall. The hearing was called to provide information to residents before a Sept. 14 referendum.

Voters in Goffstown, Hooksett, Bedford and Londonderry will decide in the referendum whether the water provided from Manchester will be fluoridated. Manchester, which approved using fluoridated water in 1999, will also be voting on the issue.

Opponents of fluoridating public water supplies say there is scientific evidence that questions the safety of the process and cast doubt about its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay.

The type of fluoride that will be used if voters approve the plan, hydrofluorosilicic acid, contains minute amounts of lead, arsenic and other toxic metals, opponents say.

They also questioned the benefits of ingesting fluoride instead of applying it topically on teeth.

Audience member Mike Connett cited information that shows 98 percent of people living in Western Europe don’t receive fluoridated water. Yet tooth decay in these countries has declined as it has in the United States, where 170 million receive fluoridated water.

“If fluoridated water’s main benefit is topical, than there is no need to swallow it,” said Connett, of Burlington, Vt. “Swallowing fluoride to prevent tooth decay is akin to swallowing sun screen to prevent sunburn.”

A few audience members supported using water fluoridation, saying it helps the poorest people in society by providing them an easy way to prevent tooth decay.

Fred Rusczek, director of health for the City of Manchester, addressed the topic of fluoride during a brief comment period in the beginning of the hearing. Rusczek pointed to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the information shows that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 or more in treatment costs.

Manchester resident Lloyd Basinow, of the Citizens Against Fluoride Exposure, accused Rusczek of dodging his organization’s numerous requests to present scientific information to support some of his claims and to debate the organization.

“Why are you running,” Basinow asked Rusczek during the question-and-answer period.

Rusczek said it isn’t his job as health director to seek out groups and debate them. He said he uses information provided by experts from such groups as the CDC.

“I don’t spend my life studying the health effects of fluoride. So am I the nation’s expert on fluoride? No,” he said.

Officials revealed that the company that would be providing hydrofluorosilicic acid is Solvay Fluoride Inc. of St. Louis.