Voters in Burlington overwhelmingly endorsed keeping fluoride in the municipal water supply.
About 70 percent of the city’s Town Meeting Day voters defeated a measure that asked the City Council to stop fluoridation, one of several ballot items before residents.
Critics of fluoridated water have argued that the practice is unsafe, can cause health problems and is outdated. They also have said that water fluoridation amounts to compulsory medication of an entire population. Fluoride supporters countered that the procedure is a safe and effective way to promote dental health, and that without fluoridated water the rate of tooth decay among children would increase.
“I’m extremely pleased,” said Dr. Steve Arthur, director of the Vermont Health Department’s Office of Oral Health. “Ultimately this is a victory for everyone in the city of Burlington. Fluoride is beneficial for children, adolescents, adults and senior citizens. Everyone is a beneficiary.”
Supporters of the measure, led by a group named Safe Water Advocates of Burlington, said they were glad their message of fluoride’s dangers reached so many voters; 2,766 people wanted fluoride out of the water, while 6,908 voted to keep it in.
“It’s going to take considerable effort to reverse what we perceive as 50 years of marketing,” said Deborah Loring, spokeswoman for the local group. “We actually did well getting it across to as many people as we did. This is an education effort, and we have educated quite a lot of people.”
Elsewhere, Montpelier residents also voted to keep fluoride in the water supply.
In Burlington, opinions varied on the proposal outside polling places earlier Tuesday.
Parent Josh Chant, 36, pushed his bundled-up, 10-month-old daughter, Sophia, away from the Ward 4 precinct at St. Mark’s Youth Center and said he believes fluoride is safe enough to give to his child.
“We’ve grown up with it, and it always seemed to be this way,” Chant said. “I haven’t heard anything that concerns me.”
Charles Rook, 67, also supported fluoridated water.
“I wish I’d had fluoride when I was growing up,” he said, “and then I wouldn’t have so many fillings.”
Ken Bridges, 44, wanted the practice to cease.
“I don’t see the necessity to put something in the water,” he said. “We can get it from a lot of other sources. Water should be clean.”
In deciding several additional city ballot items Tuesday, voters:
Approved, 4,964 to 4,507, adding 1 cent to the existing state sales tax of 6 percent.
Overwhelmingly endorsed spending $1.65 million to replace a wastewater pipe under the Winooski River that sprung a leak in April 2005.
Said, by a vote of 6,382 to 2,976, that they don’t want to close any of the city’s elementary schools.