Tonight, here in Burlington, VT the water fluoridation issue took the main stage at the first televised mayoral debate. For several minutes the mayoral candidates responded to a question asked by SwabVT.org co-founder, Geoff Golder.
"The American Dental Association recommends that children under the age of twelve months not consume fluoridated drinking water, and both the State Department of Health and the Burlington Board of Health concur with this stance. The Burlington Board of Health recently recommended to the City Council that the city take a precautionary stance towards community water fluoridation by discontinuing the practice. What would you do to ensure safe drinking water for the children of Burlington, considering that our city's water is fluoridated?"Unfortunately I was preparing coffee in the next room and did not hear the question actually being asked. In between bean-grindings I heard the word "fluoride" come from the living room. Yes, Kurt Wright, the republican mayoral hopeful, was talking about fluoride. He noted that seventy-five percent of voters voted to keep fluoride in the water in 2006. The beans mostly landed on the kitchen floor as I wasted no time in planting myself in front of the live internet stream.
Incumbent candidate Bob Kiss responded next. He noted that the ADA had issued a statement saying that children under the age of one year should not drink tap water. He also noted the concern about kidney patients. In his kind and thoughtful manner, he acknowledged the board of health decision, and recognized that it was deserved of further attention.
The final candidate, Andy Montroll, responded with what I thought was a very fair story. He mentioned that one of his children was virtually free of cavities while his other has had seven fillings. They've grown up with fluoridated water. He admittd that many people that he knows and respects, formerly convinced him that fluoridation was safe and effective, however, he also noted that he's spoken with more and more people that he knows and respects who are begining to call it into question. He emphasized that there is an answer in the science.
I regret not having been able to see one of the candidates, Dan Smith, respond to the question. I will have to pull it up on CCTV.org once they've posted it.
I think what we've seen tonight is a milestone. "Anti-fluoridationists" as they have been called, seem to be gaining more recognition and "membership" based on new science and new information. With the ADA now recommending that parents use water with no or low fluoride levels when mixing infant formula, many parents are starting to realize that this means no tap water for their kids. Yes, your kids! The National Kidney Foundation has discontinued its support of community water fluoridation and is calling for kidney patients to be "notified of the risks of fluoride exposure" kidney patients will undoubtedly be the next to start raising their hands and saying "what about us?" Yes, what about them? If water fluoridation does reduce tooth-decay by about 15% is it worth the risk? Is it worth forcing parents to purchase bottled water just to avoid exposing their infants to systemic fluoride? Is it worth forcing kidney patients to drink and internalize something they may be unable to process? Why not focus on providing more effective dental solutions to those who need it rather than sending a medicine through the water pipes to everyone, regardless of their condition. I bet we could reduce toothdecay even more than 15% with a more targetted and effective approach.
I believe we are starting to see that the "anti-fluoridationists" we may have thought to be quacky or paranoid, are for the most part, raising concerns that we all share. (for the most part I said!) They are concerned mothers. They are the concerned friends and family of kidney patients. They are people who are involved with healthy living. They are the people who don't want anything special in their water.
The next time you hear some wacky anti-fluoridationist in the news, give him or her a listen. If you're concerned with ethics and justice, I bet you're an anti-fluoridationist, yourself, and never even knew it.