CONCORD (AP) ? Fluoridating drinking water was a hot issue in the 1950s, when some considered it a communist plot. Now, the critics are back, this time citing health concerns.
Rather than helping to prevent dental decay, fluoride is poisoning them slowly, harming bones and hindering brain development, they claim.
Last week, the critics got a hearing in Washington before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H. Jeff Green, director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, said it was the first scientific discussion of fluoride at a congressional hearing in 23 years.
“It wasn?t as large a step as I?d like to see, but it was a start,” Green said. “Most of us who look at this issue think the science is in,” and it runs against adding fluoride.
Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, has been added to some drinking water supplies around the country for four decades. The dental and medical establishments firmly support its use and want it expanded.
“Water fluoridation has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” Richard Mascola, president of the American Dental Association, says on the organization?s Web site.
The association says fluoridation also is supported by the World Health Organization, U.S. Public Health Service, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and American Cancer Society, among others.
Critics are not swayed.
John William Hirzy is a senior scientist in risk assessment for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hirzy stressed that he was speaking for a union that represents EPA professional employees, and not the agency.
“In 1997, we most recently voted to oppose fluoridation. Our opposition has strengthened since then,” he told Smith?s committee.
Citing studies on issues stemming from brain development in rats to hip fractures among elderly women, he urged Congress to order a thorough study of fluoridation.
He also challenged the notion that dental fluorosis, the appearance of white spots on teeth, is only a cosmetic side effect of fluoridation.
Ten communities in New Hampshire fluoridate drinking water: Concord, Dover, Durham, Lakeport section of Laconia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Hanover, Portsmouth and Rochester, and Fryeburg, Maine, which supplies water to 100 New Hampshire residents. Manchester is to begin fluoridating next month.
Fluoride opponents got a bad reputation in the 1950s for claiming the government was trying to control the public through fluoridation.
Gerhard Bedding of Keene, director of the New Hampshire Pure Water Coalition, said he was pleased Smith sought Hirzy?s testimony.
“There are some important things that are not in general knowledge,” he said.