RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – Opponents of treating Rutland’s public drinking water with fluoride are pushing to have the practice banned. Eight years after a similar effort failed at the polls, voters will again see the question on the Town Meeting Day Ballot.

“I think we’ve tried just about everything in terms of trying to persuade the mayor, the board of alderman,” said Jack Crowther with the group Rutland Fluoride Action.

A new petition filed to the Rutland City Board of Alderman could remove fluoride from the city’s public drinking water. Crowther, a long-time fluoride skeptic, was behind a similar effort eight years ago. “We say fluoride is a systemic poison,” he told WCAX in 2016. Back then, 60% of residents voted down the measure.

“The act of fluoridation is the adjustment of the amount of fluoride in the water so that it’s just the right amount that doesn’t cause any health effects but provides the population with the protective benefit against dental decay,” said Robin Miller with the Vermont Department of Health. She estimates that every dollar spent on the process saves about $20 in dental costs. “Community water fluoridation may be one of the only preventive dental benefits some people are getting.”

Fluoridation has been a common practice for more than 75 years after scientists found that children who drank water with naturally high levels of fluoride had less tooth decay. It’s proven to be effective in safe amounts but too much can have harmful effects.

For Crowther, it’s about education and people being able to make medical decisions on their own. “When you put it in the water to treat tooth decay, you’re actually medicating the water supply. This is done without informed consent, which is a basic tenant of medical ethics,” he said.

Miller says Rutland is not the first community to debate fluoridation and that some have moved away from the practice. “That freedom of choice issue is present in lots of public health interventions,” she said.

Rutland Mayor Mike Doenges has expressed concerns over how the measure is worded. “The way that it’s written in this particular ballot language is a little nerve-racking because it takes away an element of control that we need to properly treat our water system and properly enact changes when we need to,” he said.

The charter proposal is heading to the ballot on March 5.

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