Editorial: Bradford Regresses

While the rest of the world is fretting about electromagnetic waves, genetically modified food and other perceived health threats associated with contemporary living, the town of Bradford, Vt., has taken a step back in time by rekindling a public health debate that we thought had been settled long ago — whether fluoride should be added to the municipal water supply to combat tooth decay. As much as we admire quaintness and those who must be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world, Bradford should move quickly to quell this non-controversy.

It was the Bradford Water and Sewer Commission that decided to turn back the time machine by voting in October to permanently discontinue the decades-old practice of adding fluoride to town water. Commissioners, who voted 4-0 to make the change, cited financial and health reasons for their decision. The district had built a new pumphouse and fitting it out for fluoridation would have cost additional money, as would the continuing purchase of fluoride. And they had concerns about whether fluoridation might pose health risks.

To whatever extent the budgetary reservations were legitimate — and it’s hard to believe that the cost of rigging up the new pumphouse for continued fluoridation would be prohibitive — they no longer are. State public health officials have pledged to cover the bill for the fluoridation equipment. And the cost of buying fluoride is trivial — estimated at $1,200 annually.

To better understand the commissioners’ health concerns, it’s worth noting that when they voted to discontinue fluoridation, they had heard from an out-of-town anti-fluoridation activist, but had failed to consult local dentists, public health authorities or the Selectboard. Considering that their decision affects the oral health of between 1,500 and 2,000 people, including schoolchildren, their initial lack of interest in seeking out informed opinion was irresponsible.

On the other hand, the commissioners deserve credit for reconsidering the decision after a mailed notice about the change prompted an outcry, most notably from Bradford dentist Robert Munson. That people would be upset is understandable. Although some Americans remain convinced that fluoridated water poses a health risk and/or unwarranted government interference in what should be a matter of individual choice, those people are a distinct minority and, more important, their opinion lies outside the scientific consensus. Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control have to say: “For 65 years, community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay. CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

That there are people who firmly, even passionately, dispute the scientific consensus on the benefits of fluoridation should not be surprising: There are few widely accepted public health practices that haven’t engendered a community of skeptics. And sometimes scientific consensus is proven wrong. But until the skeptics present a persuasive case, the vast majority have every right to implement practices that experts believe will promote public health. Dissenters can opt out by buying bottled water. In this case, leaving the decision about whether to use fluoride up to individuals makes no sense. Too many children would suffer tooth decay because their families lacked the resources, information or skills to act on sound advice.

This is an easy call, and we can only assume that the commissioners will reverse themselves at their Dec. 11 meeting so the people of Bradford can focus their attention on more contemporary ill-founded fears.


Fluoride Debated in Bradford After Commission Ends Water Treatment 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bradford — Opponents and supporters of fluoridating the town’s water supply came out in force last night as commission members defended and explained their recent decision to no longer fluoridate the water. Supporters of the decision by the Bradford Water and Sewer Commission cited concerns over negative health effects and involuntary ingestion of a chemical added to the water supply. …

Letter: Fluoride Editorial Was Dead Wrong

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To the Editor: Regarding your editorial on the Bradford Water and Sewer commissioners’ decision to stop fluoridating Bradford’s drinking water (“Bradford Regresses,” Dec. 2): In the 11 years I’ve been reading your paper, I’ve never seen such a biased, condescending and misinformed editorial. Did you do any research at all before you shot from the hip with blanket statements about …

Letter: No Medication Without Consent

Thursday, December 6, 2012

To the Editor: This is in response to the Dec. 2 editorial, “Bradford Regress.” First off, let me state that I am the “anti-fluoride activist from out of the area” mentioned in the first article. I, and five previous generations of my family have lived in Fairlee. My wife, three children and I have lived in Bradford now for about …

Letter: Other Ways to Fight Tooth Decay

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To the Editor: Although Bradford residents may have recently over-Googled “water fluoridation,” why is it that we aren’t addressing the main causes of dental cavities rather than focusing on a Band-Aid that, even in the best light, may reduce only 20 to 40 percent of cavities? There are three main factors needed for decay: bacteria, sugars and time. Although thousands …

Letter: The Case Against Fluoridation

Monday, December 3, 2012

To the Editor: The editorial of Dec. 2 (“Bradford Regresses”) suggests that Bradford water commissioners took a step backward in deciding not to continue fluoridation of the town water supply. The Centers for Disease Control is cited, recognizing “water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” Bradford, however, has taken a step forward into …

Column: Bradford: Keep the Ban on Fluoridation

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Canton, N.Y. When getting my Ph.D. at Dartmouth, I relied on the Valley News for well-informed opinion; thus, I was deeply shocked to read its Dec. 2 editorial on water fluoridation. Having researched this issue for 16 years, first as a professor of environmental chemistry and then as director of the Fluoride Action Network, I believe this editorial could have …

Letter: Fluoridation Makes Sense

Monday, December 10, 2012

To the Editor: Your Dec. 2 editorial, “Bradford Regresses,” points to an extremely important principle on which this country was founded, and one I’d like to think our community practices on a regular basis. Fluoridation is a public health measure in which a tiny communitywide investment benefits everyone. Maintaining an optimal amount of fluoride in water is based on the …

Bradford, Vt., Commission Reaffirms Decision to End Water Fluoridation

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bradford — Water and Sewer Commission members have voted to reaffirm their May decision to remove fluoride from the town’s water supply. Commissioners initially voted in May to end fluoridation, a decision that flew under the radar for months before sparking a backlash from dentists and residents. On Tuesday, the commission took another vote, and the results were the same. …

Letter: Fluoridation Has Sound Science Behind It

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To the Editor: Bravo to the Valley News for its wise and commonsensical editorial on Dec. 2, “Bradford Regresses.” As a pediatrician, I see children every week from Bradford who will be hurt by the removal of fluoride from the water. We have an oral health crisis here, and both kids and seniors are counting on us to heed science …

Editorial: Civic Health in Bradford; Fluoride Vote Lacked Transparency

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There must be something in the water in Bradford, Vt., and we don’t mean fluoride. We refer to the fact that the town’s Water and Sewer Commission appears to be under the influence of something that has impaired its judgment and led it to ignore a central proposition of democratic government — that the public’s business must be transacted in …

Petition Seeks Fluoride Vote In Bradford

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bradford, Vt. — Two residents are spearheading a petition to reverse the Water and Sewer Commission’s decision to stop fluoridating the town’s water supply. Dr. Robert Munson, a dentist, and Larry Coffin, Historical Society president and retired town moderator, said they started the petition this week following a backlash to the commission’s decision to remove the fluoride. More recently, Bradford …

Letter: Flouride Isn’t Safe or Effective

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To the Editor: Your editorial advocating the use of fluoride in Bradford’s water contained misinformation, a lack of rudimentary research and way too much condescension. Somebody “called this in” without doing their homework. Had the writer bothered to fact check, he would have learned that the “out-of-town anti-fluoride activist” was actually a concerned Bradford resident. Had the writer attended the …