The leader of a national anti-fluoridation group blasted a proposal to fluoridate Bellingham’s drinking water Thursday night.
Paul Connett, executive director of Fluoride Action Network and a chemistry professor at St. Lawrence University in New York, told about 60 people gathered at Broadway Hall in Bellingham that the risks of putting small amounts of fluoride in the city’s drinking water were greater than the potential benefits to oral health.
Connett spoke at a forum sponsored by Citizens Against Forced Fluoride, which opposes a November ballot initiative by Bellingham Families for Fluoride. Proponents say Bellingham should join the two thirds of the U.S. population on public water supply systems with fluoridated water to reduce tooth decay.
The event was advertised as an “open public forum” with representatives from both sides, but Bellingham Families for Fluoride turned down the invitation to attend, saying they would only attend forums sponsored by “legitimate community groups.” Two seats marked for “fluoride proponents” remained empty at the front of the room next to the anti-fluoride speakers.
Connett placed a floppy, yellow crocheted chicken in one of the empty chairs, and said he’d come back to Bellingham to debate fluoride proponents “if they ever pluck up the courage and confidence to do so.”
Had fluoride supporters come to speak at the forum, they would have passed a banner in the doorway announcing the event as a “wake for fluoridation.”
Connett walked the audience through a lengthy PowerPoint presentation outlining his arguments against fluoridation.
“Every scientific paper I’m citing tonight is peer reviewed and published,” he said.
He showed a graph published on his organization’s Web site illustrating declining cavity rates throughout the world – in countries with and without fluoridated water. Improved standards of living, he said, not fluoridation, were the reason for the declines.
Connett also showed a spreadsheet with data from a 1990 study of dental decay in 39,000 children, which was reported to have demonstrated an 18 percent difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities. Looking at it another way, Connett said, that amounts to about half a tooth surface.
“We’re talking one filling at most, per child, is being saved,” he said.
Meanwhile, Connett walked through several health problems he said were connected to fluoridated water. There’s “mixed” evidence that fluoridation plays a role in osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in boys, Connett said. And an increase in hip fractures could be expected “more likely than not.”
The National Research Council, in a 1993 review of fluoridation studies, said they found “no credible evidence for an association between fluoride in drinking water and the risk of cancer.” It also found some studies that showed a “weak association” between fluoridated water and the risk of hip fractures, while others found no link. Connett cited more recent research in his talk.
The National Research Council has reconvened the fluoride study group, and a report is due out next year.
But Connett said the strongest argument against fluoride is that it’s “unethical.”
“No government has the right to force medication on anyone,” he said, which drew applause from the crowd.