The man who successfully lobbied to remove fluoridation in the village of Canton 12 years ago offered a simple challenge — debate him and his anti-fluoride views.
After speaking before the City Council on Monday night, Paul H. Connett, a professor emeritus of chemistry at St. Lawrence University and the head of Fluoride Action Network, did not get any takers.
And he didn’t expect he would.
For almost two hours, Mr. Connett gave several reasons — he called them “ugly facts” — why the city should remove fluoride from the water supply. He told council members not to believe such organizations as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians because decades ago they said the chemical was safe and they would lose credibility if they reversed their decision now.
But council members can reverse the city’s more than 50-year-old decision to add fluoride to the city’s water system, said Mr. Connett, who co-authored a book called “The Case Against Fluoride.”
“It’s as easy to stop as turning off the spigot of the water drinking system,” he said.
Mr. Connett, who has cited numerous studies that show fluoride can have dangerous side effects, contends that excessive fluoride exposure increases the risk of damaging tooth enamel. In the past 20 years, Mr. Connett has given more than 2,000 public presentations on fluoride, incineration and other solid waste issues.
About 20 people attended Monday night’s work session to hear Mr. Connett speak, with just about all of them from a local anti-fluoride group that has been coming to council meetings to try to persuade the city to eliminate the colorless, tasteless chemical.
Dr. Andrew E.C. Crossley, president of the Jefferson-Lewis County Dental Society, was among the handful of pro-fluoride advocates at the meeting. Afterward he called Mr. Connett “a marvelous speaker,” but the local dentist said he had no interest in debating the chemist. And Mr. Connett did not persuade him to change his mind about fluoride.
“Science isn’t a debate,” Dr. Crossley said. “Science is about facts.”
The regional chapter of the New York State Dental Association and individual dentists have come out in support of fluoridation. They say fluoride fights decay and should remain in the water supply. They also contend that reputable studies prove fluoridation is safe.
During the presentation, council members Jeffrey M. Smith and Joseph M. Butler Jr. asked several questions about Mr. Connett’s stance, what they should to do to research the subject and why they should believe him when there’s so much out there to contrary.
While they both said they’ll keep an open mind on the topic, Mr. Butler said he has talked to his dentist of many years and got advice that fluoride stops tooth decay.
“I’d trust my dentist over you,” he said. “I don’t know you. I don’t know you that well.”
The remark got a collective gasp from Watertown Anti-fluoridation Action, the group of more than 40 residents that invited Mr. Connett to attend the work session.