Machias voters Wednesday night elected to continue adding fluoride to the water for the intended purpose of fighting tooth decay.
The question was the last of 55 articles on the warrant at the annual town meeting and was the only question to elicit any discussion or opposition.
Machias resident Vince Roberts, who had prompted selectmen to put the question to voters, was the first person to take the floor Wednesday, telling residents that fluoride causes cancer.
“It will eat through anything except wax and stainless steel,” he said. “It’s a drug. It’s not regulated. … Do you want your children to be exposed to this danger?”
Roberts did not find much support, however.
Voters gave their consent for two dental professionals to speak at the meeting, even though they are not residents.
Dr. Mary MacKay, a dentist from Lubec, said Roberts’ claims have “no basis in science.”
“It’s indisputable that fluoride prevents [tooth] decay,” she said. “It does not cause cancer. It’s been proven not to cause cancer.”
She refuted not only Roberts’ argument but his sources.
“He says he gets his answers from the internet. I get my answers from science,” she said. “Keep the fluoride. Please, keep the fluoride in the water.”
Jean Litalien, a dental hygienist from Lubec, also spoke in favor of keeping the water fluoridated. She said topical fluoride, such as that found in toothpaste, helps teeth already formed in the mouth. But systemic fluoride, such as that which comes from the water, helps strengthen teeth as they’re forming, which is especially important for children. She said one source of fluoride cannot be substituted for the other.
Jenn Wood, a Machias resident and volunteer at the annual free Washington County dental clinic, said she believes the need for fluoride in the water is extensive.
“I’m right with you,” she said, looking at MacKay. “I think we need to continue.”
Richard Eckendorff, a German native who has lived in Machias for 16 years, said fluoride is seen as a poison in Europe and, as such, it is not added to the water.
“It’s definitely not a solution to put fluoride in the water,” he said. “What’s being done is dangerous.”
When a show of hands was requested of the 25 or so registered voters present, only Roberts and one other man opposed keeping fluoride in the water. Eckendorff was unable to vote because he is not yet a citizen of the United States, he said.
“I’m not going to drink the water,” Roberts said after the meeting. “If anybody gets cancer, I wash my hands of it.”