BOSTON – Activists from Western Massachusetts yesterday converged on Beacon Hill to fight an effort to strip voters of the right to decide if fluoride should be added to municipal drinking water.
The Legislature’s Committee on Public Health yesterday aired bills that would empower the state Department of Public Health to regulate fluoride in most municipal drinking water supplies. The Massachusetts Medical Society and other national and international health organizations support fluoridation of drinking water mainly because it can prevent tooth decay and help avoid other health problems.
Led by Stephen A. Dean, a chiropractor in Springfield and president of Massachusetts Communities for Pure Water, about 40 residents of Western Massachusetts opposed the bill.
“We don’t want fluoride,” said Donald K. Husson, 72, a retired letter carrier from Springfield. “We don’t want it forced down our throats.”
Critics cited a study that found fluoridation can cause increased risk of bone cancer.
Other opponents who lobbied at the Statehouse included Linda L. Gagne, 48, of Springfield, her daughter, Kelly M. Higgins, 17, and her son, Raymond G. Gagne, 14.
“We love Springfield water,” said Linda Gagne.
Under existing law, residents have the option of placing a referendum on a ballot if a board of health seeks to increase the fluoride content of water.
Of the state’s 351 cities and towns, 135 have fluoridated water supplies, covering 62 percent of the state’s population, according to the medical society. Springfield, Worcester, Leominster and Pittsfield are some of the largest communities in the state without fluoridated water supplies. Dr. Jeffrey H. Scavron, medical director of the Brightwood Health Center in Springfield, spoke in support of fluoridation, saying people need as much protection as possible from dental disease.
Scavron said fluoride would improve the drinking water in Springfield and wouldn’t affect the taste.
Scavron said poor dental health is associated with other diseases such as the virus that causes AIDS, heart disease and diabetes.
Scavron said only about five dentists in Springfield accept Medicaid, severely limiting dental care for the poor and disabled.