KENNEBUNK – Fluoride was a hotly debated topic from Arundel to York in 2016 after the citizen’s group Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation gathered enough signatures to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.

Voters in the communities of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel, Biddeford Pool and Fortune’s Rocks and the Cape Neddick section of York sent a clear message on Nov. 8 deciding by nearly a two to one margin to stop adding fluoride to the public water supply of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District.

The referendum question read, “Shall fluoride be added to the public water supply for the intended purpose of reducing tooth decay?” Voters said no, with a vote of 13,385 to 6,918.

The following day, the feed pumps were turned off and within weeks all customers had only a naturally occurring level of fluoride in their tap water.

The issue of public water fluoridation has come under increasing fire nationwide in recent years, with concerns being raised about the effects of environmental toxins on the long-term health of the general public.

Members of The Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation felt that fluoride being added to the drinking water is an unnecessary toxin that should not be ingested.

The water district came out in support of removing added fluoride from the water supply, but experts in the dental field claimed children and elderly residents in York County would be at risk for dental decay and a myriad of associated problems.

In the months leading up to the November vote, experts on both sides of the issue squared off in public forums, where the debate was impassioned and often heated.

Dianne Smallidge, RDH, MDH, associate professor at the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene representing the group Healthy Teeth, Healthy Smiles promoting water fluoridation, said with the “no” vote the residents served by KKWWD have been robbed of what the CDC has identified as one of the great public health achievements, community water fluoridation.

“The dentists, hygienists, health professionals and other experts who tried to inform our community members on the facts regarding the safety and efficacy of fluoride, and its importance to oral health, are of course disappointed with the voting outcome. But even more our group is concerned about the negative impact this decision will have on our friends and neighbors’ general well-being,” Smallidge said in a statement following the November vote.

Janice Hanson, of The Campaign to Reconsider Water Fluoridation, said she was grateful for the voters careful consideration and critical thinking on the issue.

“We understand fluoridation is an issue that requires a deeper examination of what we’ve been told in the past. Voters joined us and (KKWWD) in our commitment to freedom of choice in what we ingest into our bodies. They joined us in our belief that delivering medical treatment through the water supply without an accurate dosage methodology and informed consent is contrary to the very foundation of our country’s civil liberties and safety protocols,” she said.

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