MANSFIELD – The Mansfield Board of Health unanimously supports continuing fluoridation of the town’s water supply.
The BOH voted its continued support for town fluoridation to prevent dental decay after a May 20 meeting during which members heard comments from state and local dentists and pediatricians, Water Division Operations Manager Kurt Gaffney, the public, and the proponent of a citizens’ petition seeking to end the program.
The petition article, proposed by resident Thomas Yeransian, goes before Town Meeting voters at on Monday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Xfinity Center. It asks voters to discontinue adding sodium fluoride or any other fluoridation chemical “in order to protect vulnerable populations from over exposure to fluoride…”
Yeransian said he is concerned because recent studies raise concerns about health concerns about the impact of fluoridation, that the fluoride the town purchases comes from China and that residents should have a choice whether to use fluoride.
The virtual meeting was held specifically to discuss the petition article and take a vote on town water fluoridation, BOH Chairman Antonia Blinn said.
Blinn said the Centers for Disease Control states fluoride is a safe and effective measure to prevent tooth decay, which is one of the most common childhood diseases.
“A large number of towns in Massachusetts support fluoridation,” Blinn said.
Some 119 communities have fully fluoridated water systems and 19 have partially fluoridated systems, according to Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Oral Health.
The town voted to add fluoride to the water system in the early 1990s but did not implement the vote until funding was available in 1997, Blinn said.
Blinn said the BOH has discussed the fluoridation of town water in 1991, 1997 and 2012 and has repeatedly voted to support it.
John Fisher, a Salem dentist, who speaks on community water fluoridation on behalf of the state Department of Public Health, was among those invited by BOH.
Fisher and several others commented that community water fluoridation is the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver fluoride to everyone in a community, regardless of income.
Fisher said he saw the negative impact on those in poor communities when he worked on mobile outreach van in non-fluoridated communities in the 1970s.
“Those who are opposed to fluoride are misinformed,” Fisher said, adding several studies cited by those against fluoride have been debunked. “There is no credible study that supports them. Community water fluoridation is a public health issue. Vitamin D is added to milk. Iodine is added to salt.
“There is no study that shows fluoride is anything but safe and effective.”
“I find that children have less tooth decay today, but it is still the most common disease children have,” said Lisa Cannon, resident local pediatrician and physician for the Mansfield public schools.
She said children who suffer from tooth decay may miss more school and there are additional costs for families to buy fluoride supplements and pay for dental treatment.
She said adding fluoride to the water while fluoridated toothpaste is available is similar to wearing seatbelts and having airbags in your car.
“Ending water fluoridation would invite more tooth decay into the community,” Cannon said. “I very much support continuing water fluoridation.”