MANCHESTER – Ed Groves Sr. of Hooksett left last night’s 90 minute fluoridation forum at Manchester Public Library with everything he needed to make up his mind about the issue of whether fluoride should remain in public drinking water.
It was the same tube of Crest he came with.
“All this scientific stuff is fine, but look what it says here,” Groves said, pulling a half-used tube of toothpaste from his pocket and waving it. “It says if you swallow this, call the poison center. Poison! And they’re giving it to us in our water. Whatever happened to freedom of choice?”
Groves was among about 30 residents who turned out for what organizers were hoping would be a balanced debate on the issue of fluoridation, which goes before voters in five communities on Sept. 14.
But no one showed up to debate Dr. Paul Connett, who outlined his extensive research on the case against fluoridation in a 10-minute presentation.
Connett earned his doctorate from Dartmouth and is a full-time chemistry professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
His specialty is environmental chemistry and toxicology, and he has spent years lecturing around the world on a variety of environmental topics, including fluoridation.
“I didn’t want this issue. When it was first presented to me eight years ago, I said, “Take it away. Those people are crazy. Then I started to read the literature,” Connett said. “And I saw a solid basis for concern.”
He said the key argument hasn’t changed since the debate began.
“To me, the argument that was supreme 50 years ago is still supreme: No government has the right to impose any medication on any individual, ” Connett said, to a rousing burst of applause.
He went on to cite research from around the globe suggesting fluoride may contribute to everything from lowered IQ and fertility to thyroid malfunction, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Connett also quoted a 1979 American Dental Association that characterized fluoridation as a “promotion program” with which dentists were urged to participate.
“Yes, every surgeon general has endorsed the ‘program,’ rather like Michael Jordan endorses Nike shoes,” Connett said.
Event organizer Barbara Hagan, a state representative and spokesman for Greater Manchester Citizens for Safe Water, said it was disappointing that no one representing the other side responded to her invitation.
“I think it’s really, really sad that public health officials and dental experts don’t want to do this,” Hagan said. “I have my suspicions that they are relying on the Centers for Disease Control for a response. Otherwise, they have no data to support their claims.”
During the open mike segment of the forum, resident Glenn Ouellette of Manchester was among those who spoke against fluoride.
Ouellette said he was shocked to learn the Food and Drug Administration has never approved fluoride as a supplement.
“I had not decided how to vote before tonight. But the fact that nobody showed up here,” he said, knocking his fist on the empty table on the stage reserved for a fluoride proponent “that tells me something.”
“And where are our local politicians? We have a water board. Where are they? Where are out aldermen?” Ouellette said, to applause.
The only voice that came close to debating Connett’s presentation was Mike DelCamp of Manchester.
He argued that the issue has been settled within the scientific community for years.
“It was a generic decision made in the interest of public health,” DelCamp said.
“Before I concede it’s beyond debate, I’d like you to produce someone to debate it. The fact that no one is here to do that should make you a little worried about this policy that is fixed,” Connett said.
Afterward, DelCamp said he was intrigued by Connett’s research, and was eager to read more at www.fluorideaction.org.
Manchester residents voted by a narrow margin in November 1999 to fluoridate the water as a means of preventing tooth decay. The program was put into effect about a year later. That prompted a group of about 20 residents of Manchester and surrounding towns to launch a legal battle to stop the fluoridation that ended up in court.
In October of 2003 the state Supreme Court ruled Manchester had violated state law by adding fluoride to the water supply of customers outside of the city who did not get to vote on the matter.
The court gave the city until June 30, 2005, to stop fluoridating the municipal water supply – unless the Legislature amended the current law before then.
In May the House approved SB 449, which set up a referendum which, on Sept. 14 will pose the question to Manchester and the communities its water department serves, “Shall fluoride be used in the Manchester public water system?”
Last night’s forum was taped by MCTV and will air on government access Channel 22 sometime this weekend, said Hagan.