Still crazy after all these years

Established scientific evidence to the contrary, some don’t want fluoride in drinking water.

In the mid-1950s, a group called the Keep America Committee denounced the fluoridation of water as a Communist plot to weaken America. Several years later, in the movie “Dr. Strangelove,” an obviously insane military officer raged against fluoride, calling it a “foreign substance … introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual.”

Attacks on adding fluoride to public water systems continue today — and they are as misguided now as they were half a century ago.

Last week, a small anti-fluoride group held an informal hearing at the state Capitol at the behest of state Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, who wants to end the state requirement, in place since 1965, that public water supplies serving more than 20,000 people be fluoridated.

The one person who spoke, Paul Connett, a retired professor of chemistry from St. Lawrence University, cited numerous studies that he said showed the dangers of fluoridation. More credible science says otherwise.

Fluoride, which occurs naturally in some water systems, has been shown to play an important role in reducing tooth decay in children and tooth loss in adults.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls fluoridation one of the 20th century’s 10 great public health achievements. The World Health Organization and the American Public Health Association have declared fluoridation to be both safe and effective.

Sen. Markley’s main anti-fluoride argument, however, has as much to do with finances and governance as with medicine. He sees a town’s responsibility to treat its water supplies as an unfunded, unnecessary mandate that unfairly burdens local taxpayers. He unsuccessfully proposed a bill this past legislative session that would have repealed the state law, leaving the decision to fluoridate up to local water agencies.

The state Department of Public Health estimates that every dollar invested in water fluoridation saves about $38 in averted dental care costs. The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate the water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling.

From both a medical and a monetary perspective, fluoridation makes sense.

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