CHAMBERSBURG – Despite objections from dental and medical professionals voiced at a Monday night meeting, Guilford Water Authority is moving forward with plans to stop adding fluoride to the public water system.
The move is expected to affect about 26,000 people in Guilford and Greene townships and, to a lesser extent, several other locations.
While several local dentists and Summit Health System’s chief medical officer urged water authority directors to reconsider their decision, most of the water consumers that spoke Monday applauded the removal of fluoride.
The authority notified its customers by letter about 10 days ago that fluoride would be removed from the water system as soon as state permitting procedures are completed.
Leo Showalter, water authority vice-chairman, said after Monday’s 90-minute session that he sees no reason for him to change his mind. However, he said water authority personnel will “digest what we heard tonight” before taking further steps.
Showalter stressed several times Monday that authority members recognize the value of fluoride as a cavity preventative, but are convinced it is their duty to deliver the purest water possible.
He said directors “kicked around” the idea for two or three years before moving forward with the idea.
“We’ve received letters from customers for years asking that we remove fluoride,” Showalter said. “We started discussing it two or three years ago and decided to deliver the cleanest highest-quality water we could and leave it to customers who want fluoride to get it on their own terms.”
Several people who addressed the meeting made claims that fluoride has negative side affects that have harmed them.
One woman, who did not provide her name, said she has developed “chemical sensitivity” during her lifetime. She called fluoride a neurotoxin that can contribute to dementia.
Stephen Smith, a Gettysburg, resident with a child attending Montessori Academy in Greene Township, said four doctors have told him that fluoride contributes to a thyroid disorder, from which he suffers.
“I’m pleased to hear you are taking this step,” Smith said.
Another woman, who did not identify herself, commended the authority for its ” commendable innovation.” She said fluoride is a “poison” that invades “every cell” in a human body.
“It is not the prerogative of government to medicate its citizens,” she said.
However, a nurse practitioner and water authority customer pleaded with water officials to think of the most defenseless citizens.
“I love our water, but I’m concerned about the most vulnerable, the poor children without access to dentistry, or even toothpaste,” she said.
Chambersburg dentists Mike Cerveris stressed “legitimate” dental and medical research that establishes evidence that fluoride, if dispensed in proper dosages, reduces tooth decay. He said there is no valid evidence that it contributes to other illness and disease.
Cerveris, however, was shouted down by some in the crowd of about 25 people when he tried to recite his credentials and references.
Frank Mozdy, chief medical officer at Summit Health, urged GWA directors not to succumb to the loudest complaints when making policy. He said he found “small vocal” groups have held water officials “hostage” in many communities.
“I’m concerned about a minority of the population that speaks loudly and frequently about anecdotal issues. They do not speak for the public,” he said. “I urge the authority to reconsider and to survey its users.”
Chambersburg dentist Eric Weiss echoed that advice.
“Wouldn’t a survey be reasonable?” he asked.
Water authority director Marv Rife said he didn’t support the idea to remove fluoride when the discussion first surfaced, but that his opinion changed because fluoride removal puts customers in control of their own destiny.
“I wasn’t crazy about the idea,” Rife said Monday. “But I like the word ‘choice.'”
Diana Young, the water authority’s engineer, said, “We are not qualified to make medical judgements, and if we add fluoride, we remove the customers’ choice. It cannot be removed after it’s added, but by stopping the treatment with fluoride, we give customers the choice to get fluoride in other ways.”
Young said water authority directors are not “anti-fluoride.”
“We agree that fluoride is good for dental health. The question is where do you get it? Fluoride is not good for some of our residents.”
In an answer to a question Monday, water authority Manager Gary Yeager said the annual system-wide cost of fluoride treatment is about $10,000. He said handling fluoride also puts employees at risk.
“It’s extremely dangerous for the guys who add it,” he said.
According to Yeager, the system provides water to portions of Caledonia State Park in Franklin Township, Adams County, and some customers in Southampton Township in Franklin County and the Borough of Chambersburg, as well as Guilford and Greene townships.