SOMERSET — Because of a question that was asked at last Thursday’s candidates’ forum for the annual town election, Somerest Water and Sewer Commission Chairman Charles Fisher II and Water Superintendent Robert Lima said they wanted to address any concerns there might be about fluoride being in the public drinking water supply.
“We don’t want people thinking there is a problem,” Mr. Fisher said. “Our water is completely safe.”
The person who asked the question to the candidates said the Amesbury Water Department recently pulled fluoride from its system amid toxic concerns about the supply from China.
Of 132 municipal water systems in Massachusetts, 44 receive fluoride from China. The question about whether Somerset should continue to use or remove fluoride from its water was asked to Mr. Fisher and his challenger in the election, Joseph Almeida.
Mr. Fisher said Somerset has been putting fluoride in its water supply since 1969 and said it does come from China. He said the only two countries that sell fluoride to the United States are China and Japan.
“It’s to prevent dental cavities and it promotes healthy bones,” Mr. Fisher said of the reasons for putting fluoride in water.
According to a letter from the Massaachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services dated March 12, more than 184 million people in the United States are receiving the health and economic benefits of community water fluoridation. Of that number, 3.9 million people are from Massachusetts. Of those people, the state says 17 percent are receiving fluoridated water from systems that use sodium fluoride. Mr. Lima said the optimum dose of fluoride put in Somerset water is between .9 and 1.2 parts per million.
“The chemical is 99 percent pure,” Mr. Lima said.
Amesbury is the only public water system in Massachusetts that has temporarily stopped fluoridating due to problems they are having with their fluoridation equipment and sodium fluoride.
All fluoride products, including sodium fluoride, are required to meet American Water Works Association standards for quality, as well as the National Sanitation Foundation standard for quality. The safety, along with the purity and contaminants of all products, is verified and validated by independent certification entities and are not a concern, according to the Office of Health and Human Services.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health monitors the amount of fluoride being added by the community water systems to ensure that optimal levels for dental health are maintained. The Office of Health and Human Services in the March letter wrote that “Fluoridation is safe, cost effective and practical for preventing tooth decay; and benefits all residents, regardless of their age or income status.”
“There is no public safety concern about fluoridation in Massachusetts,” the letters from the Office of Health and Human Services, says.
Mr. Lima said the state used to pay for fluoride for public water systems, but discontinued that in 1980.
Mr. Lima said some people do not want fluoride in water because they object to forced medications.
“We feel dentists would be in an uproar if we took it out,” Mr. Fisher said.
Mr. Almeida said the person that asked the question about fluoride at candidates’ night called him. He said he called the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regional office in Lakeville to see if he could find some information about it. He said DEP was unaware of any health concerns with fluoride in drinking water. Mr. Almeida said he called Mr. Lima about the issue and asked him if he had heard of any safety concerns related to fluoride in the town’s water. He said Mr. Lima said he had not heard of any concerns but was going to look into it. If there were any concerns or there was the possibility of safety problems, Mr. Almeida said he asked Mr. Lima if the town could halt putting fluoride in the water until all of the facts were gathered. He said Mr. Lima said that stopping use of the fluoride in the water is not that simple bacause approvals are needed from the state, as well as the American Water Works Association to do so.
Donald Forbes, a dentist from Somerset, said fluoride makes enamel harder to prevent cavities in teeth and is especially important for developing teeth.
“It’s been shown with studies over the years that fluoride in the water decreases the cavity rate and severity, especially in children,” Dr. Forbes said. “It’s most beneficial for children.”