One of the questions Burlingtonians will get to answer on Town Meeting Day this year is whether or not the city should continue to put fluoride into our drinking water.
There has been an active campaign by dental health professionals to keep the fluoride in the water. They claim, and science appears to back, that the fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. They further claim that low-income children will not get the fluoride they need unless it is put into the drinking water.
I am sure that there are low-income families in which the parents do not care about their children’s oral health. My solution to that problem would not include medicating the public water supply – call me crazy. Why can’t they just provide fluoride tablets or rinses at public schools? The vast majority of low-income children are in the public schools – and certainly any child who is not has parents that care enough to take care of the child’s teeth. So doesn’t it make more sense to treat the teeth at school?
The science is on the side of the dental health professionals that fluoride builds strong teeth, but there is also science that backs up the claim that fluoridated drinking water can cause adverse health affects, including increased risk of a rare form of bone cancer. There is more information at http://www.swabvt.org/fluoride_facts.htm.
Another interesting point is that the dental benefits of fluoride have now been shown to be the result of topical use of fluoride (on the teeth), not ingestion. This fact was not known at the time that water fluoridation began in Burlington.
I agree with the slogan used by SWAB: Safe Water Advocates of Burlington – if there’s any doubt, get it out. We should not continue to put medication in our drinking water if there is any possibility that it is unsafe.
I disagree with the fluoride advocates that the poor need the fluoride in the water. I see it as just the opposite. If I want to drink non-fluoridated water, I need to buy bottled water or an expensive filter. The Brita filter I use to filter out chlorine does not filter out fluoride. It is hard enough to afford that, let alone a more expensive filter.
It is very difficult for a low-income family to live naturally and escape the abundance of chemicals we use in our society. Organic foods, natural soaps and cleaners, free-range eggs, and rbST-free milk all cost more money than their mass-produced, chemical-laden counterparts. At least our water should be free of unnecessary chemicals.
Unfortunately, I do not think the voters will see it my way. The dental health professionals all agree with keeping the fluoride in, based on out-dated science and in-the-box thinking. They are campaigning to keep the fluoride in and most people will take the word of their dentist over a group of grass-roots activists.
Even if it passes (the voters say we want the fluoride out), the City Council does not have to listen. Many on the council want to keep it in, but it would be in their best interest to stop fluoridation. The city would save the cost of fluoride and if the schools picked up a program to provide fluoride, it would probably be covered by Medicaid or some other grant. It is win-win on the city side of things.
The fact remains, water – the most basic need of life – should be safe for us to drink. If there is any doubt, get it out.
To the question: Shall the City discontinue the practice of fluoridating the public water supply? Vote yes, March 7.