*A version of this article originally appeared in the Hardwick Gazette on June 17
Fluoride Debate Comes To Hardwick
by Michael Bielawski
HARDWICK – Last month the Select Board brought in four healthcare professionals to a meeting to advocate for putting fluoride into the municipal water supply.
The board heard for about 15 minutes all the reasons why they believed it was a good idea, and the board went on to other business because they anticipated a public response. That response has largely manifested in the form of a petition against water fluoridation at the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op, with about 66 signatures as of Tuesday June 16, including the signature of Select Board member Larry Hamel.
Fluoride is the only drug added to municipal drinking water in the US. About 67 percent of the nation’s water is fluoridated as of 2012 according to the CDC.
The CDC, World Health Organization and American Dental Association have endorsed water fluoridation as one of the great health achievements of the 20th century. Most of the world’s water fluoridation occurs in the US, for example in Europe just 3 percent of the population use water fluoridation. In Vermont there is no state law regarding fluoridation, each municipality can choose for itself.
For a local opinion on the matter, Eric Richter, dentist for 39 years over at the Hardwick Dental Group on Church Street, offered his perspective. His thoughts were that there does seem to be evidence that fluoride benefits the surface of our teeth, but he added he doesn’t think putting it into the drinking water is a good idea.
“It’s a proven fact that it works but it’s not a proven fact how much you need in your system,” he said. “Any time you are going to add something to the water system you’ve got to wonder, what’s the benefit to the public? For some people there may be an adverse reaction.”
He said what it does for teeth is it helps in forming enamel (the surface) to become harder material.
“It changes from what’s called teeth hydroxyapatite to fluorohydroxyapatite, much stronger, much more resistant to acid attack which is what happens when people get cavities,” he said.
He said it’s better to treat kids case by case. He doesn’t think it’s good for teens or adults.
“I’m not a proponent for putting it in the water system. As long as you can treat these kids individually and find out from their home if they are getting natural fluoride from their regular intake of water.”
Dr. Paul Connett, a retired professor of chemistry from St. Lawrence University in New York, current director of the Fluoride Action Network, and co-author of The Case Against Fluoride, published by Vermont-based Chelsea Green, gave his take.
“The evidence that swallowing fluoride lowers tooth decay is very weak. Most of the proponents now agree the predominant benefit is topical, meaning it works on the outside of the tooth. That should have ended water fluoridation. We’ve got fluoridated toothpaste universally available, so people should brush it on their teeth and spit it out. Not exposing it to every tissue in the body and certainly not exposing it to people who don’t want it.”
In 2014 Harvard University published a review of 27 studies on fluoridated vs. low or non-fluoridated communities and concluded 26 of those studies showed evidence of reduced IQ by an average of 7 points in high fluoridated communities. Sarah Vose,
Vermont Environmental Health and Toxicology Chief and one of the four speakers at the May 17 Select Board meeting contested these studies alleging not all variables such as poverty levels were properly accounted for. Dr. Connett in a later interview acknowledged Vose’s concern but went on to say some of those studies were very rigorous regarding control of such variables.
Vose noted the broad support for water fluoridation among large institutions to the Select Board.
“All leading health and medical organizations recommend fluoridation,” she said. “Some Vermont specific organizations include the Vermont Department of Health, the Vermont Oral Health Coalition, the Vermont State Dental Society and the Vermont Public Health Association. There are no major national medical or science organization that opposes water fluoridation.”
Not everyone is on board with the large organizations. In October 2014 the Nidel law firm of Dallas Texas via a Freedom of Information Act request obtained 2,500 pages of emails between the CDC, American Dental Association, and Department of Health and Human Services. The release has been dubbed “Fluoride Gate” by the Fluoride Action Network. A conclusion from the law firm read, “These documents raise questions about the objectivity of individuals within these agencies and indicate a need to get to the true motivations behind the lack of objectivity in these organizations.”
Hardwick is not the only town in Vermont currently debating water fluoridation. The Rutland Herald reports that in Rutland there are still ongoing hearings on the issue, where fluoride is currently already in the water.