It appears the fight for a fluoride-free Portsmouth has only just begun.
The already controversial subject rose to new heights this past week when the City Council voted 8 to 1 to forego a request from city resident Rick Horowitz asking for further study of the topic. Since then, dentists and physicians have criticized Horowitz’s belief and spoken publicly against his fight to remove the additive from the city’s water supply.
With both groups referencing their own studies and research, the argument about whether the city should fluoridate its water and should all citizens have to drink it, is apparently not over. Despite failing to secure the council’s backing, Horowitz said he plans on continuing to try and raise awareness on the negative effects and, in his opinion, dangers of fluoride.
The Gates Street resident cites advances in scientific studies as the basis for his argument against fluoridated water and questions whether it should be forced on residents. Horowitz references studies and statements from groups like the Fluoride Action Network, which in 2007 issued a statement from more than 3,000 doctors, nurses, dentists and lawyers calling for the end of water fluoridation.
Portsmouth began to fluoridate its water supply in the 1970s following a referendum vote.
Earlier this week, Horowitz said he plans to push forward with his argument and intends to pull together a petition to draft a referendum asking voters to weigh in. In addition to seeking legal advice on how to proceed, Horowitz said he plans to put together a mailing list and hopes his Web site, www.fluoridefreeportsmouth.com, will reach out to others who share his concern. He’s also received invitations for speaking engagements.
His argument appears to be one that is not only historic, but taking part on a national scale. Carole Clinch, a spokesperson and research coordinator for People for Safe Drinking Water, said she has a few fundamental concerns regarding water fluoridation that she says are based on “simple common sense.”
In addition to questioning its use as an “unregulated drug,” the 55-year-old said she has evidence to demonstrate fluoride has an effect on the body other than preventing tooth decay. Clinch claims fluoride suppressed her thyroid to the point it enabled her to go off hormones. She also cites the 2006 study of fluoride in drinking water by the National Research Council as evidence.
“Fluoride is an unregulated drug,” Clinch said. “It is not the duty of those being medicated to prove safety or efficacy. It is the duty of government to require manufacturers of these unregulated drugs to submit evidence of safety and efficacy. This has never been done.”
On the other side of the argument are doctors and local pediatricians, like North Hampton dentist Neil Hiltunen, who are calling the fight against fluoride a perfect example of misinformation. Hiltunen, who is the president of the state Board of Dental Examiners, has been involved in local dentistry since 1974 and has seen the fluoride argument again and again.
New Hampshire in particular is behind the curve when it comes to fluoride, he said. According to Hiltunen, 42 percent of the public water supply in New Hampshire is fluoridated, ranking it 43rd among the states. In Maine, close to 80 percent of the public water supply is fluoridated, he said.
“New Hampshire has a serious problem with access to dental care and to see that we rank near the bottom of all states in having fluoridated water is tragic,” Hiltunen said. “Fluoridation is one of the most economical public health initiatives ever, and can go a long way to improving the dental health of our citizens.”
The dentist said residents in Portsmouth should be thankful their water is fluoridated.
Hiltunen also said he’s seen the same type of arguments made by Horowitz before and each time they are brought about they are refuted.
“(Fluoride) is typically called a poison because anything in large amounts is toxic to humans,” Hiltunen said. “To label fluoride as a poison is inflammatory and tends to scare people who don’t know the background.”
Hiltunen said he supports the municipality applying the additive to the drinking water because it is the government that is entrusted with promoting public health. “That’s why we have the CDC,” Hiltunen said. “There’s a purpose for those organizations and to allow a few people that don’t like the idea of having fluoride in the water to dictate public policy is shortsighted.”
Bill Kohn, director of the Division of Oral Health for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said his government agency continues to recognize fluoride as one of the great public health achievements in the 20th century.
The debate on fluoride has been around since 1945 and has remained almost the same, Kohn said. Having reviewed so-called safety issues of fluoride over the years, he said the CDC continues to find no related adverse issues. “It’s one of the best things a city can do to save health care costs and protect the health of their citizens.
Kohn said he would advocate against any community removing fluoride from its water supply.
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