KENNEBUNK — When some of the municipalities in York County had the opportunity to get fluoride in their water more than a decade ago, there probably wasn’t a lot of opposition.
The chance to have something that protects your teeth from cavities and decay, for free and just by drinking water, seemed like a no-brainer.
But more research in the 14 years since has unearthed enough concerns that those served by the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport & Wells Water District signed a petition to get a question on the November ballot to decide whether to continue getting the enhanced water.
At Kennebunk Town Hall on Friday, a forum with dental and medical experts on both sides of the subject was presented by the Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation.
About 30 residents of the water district’s coverage area listened to Dianne Smallidge, a former dental hygienist and current associate professor at the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene in Boston; James Trentalange, a dentist in Arundel; Leonardo Trasande, a pediatric doctor and associate professor at New York University; and Normal Labbe, superintendent of the water district.
The water district includes Kennebunk, Kennbunkport, Wells, Arundel, Ogunquit, and parts of York and Biddeford.
Smallidge and Trentalange are strong proponents of fluoridated water. They espoused the advantages of systematic use by those who use it from a young age, and said there are no ill effects from consuming it.
Smallidge said healthy teeth is vital to children’s health, self-confidence and growth, both physically and mentally.
Trasande, on the other hand, admitted there are many benefits to toothpaste with fluoride, but was strongly against the act of adding it to tap water due to issues relating to the thyroid gland, kidney and bones. He believes that introducing chemicals into the body often has adverse affects.
“We all need to recognize when certain statements are made (about the positives of fluoridated water), they are based on the past,” he said. “There are serious concerns that need to be considered.”
“When talking future generations of children … we do have to take a step back and look at the trade-offs of adding fluoride to already fluoridated water.”
According to KK&W, the district’s water sources already have between 0.2 and 0.3 parts per million of naturally occurring calcium fluoride, which it says is about half of the amount the Maine Drinking Water Program has set as the minimum level for fluoridated water supplies.
Trasande claimed that the amount of fluoride from fluoridated water that stays in your mouth after you drink it is negligible, and that the best way to protect your teeth is topically.
Many, if not all, of those in attendance had concerns and opinions. Half of the two-hour gathering ended up being devoted to a question and-answer session, although a large chunk was devoted not to questions of the panel, but to descriptions of personal issues and concerns.
Someone with a brain injury did not want to take anything that could sidetrack her recovery; others equated having fluoride in the water to mass medication. A couple of people wanted the choice of how much fluoride they take in, and someone wanted to know how fluoride affects babies in utero.
Labbe reiterated that the water district has come out in support of reverting back to non-fluoridated water. He noted that a new website – rethinkingfluoride.com – just went live last week.
“We are concerned for customers and employees,” he said. “It has been a very political and polarized topic for years. I hope it will culminate with an informed decision in November.”