Fluoride Debated in Bradford After Commission Ends Water Treatment 

  • Dr. Robert Munson talks to a patient at his dental clinic in Bradford, Vt., yesterday. Munson has not liked the way the water commission handled using fluoride in the town water.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dr. Robert Munson talks to a patient at his dental clinic in Bradford, Vt., yesterday. Munson has not liked the way the water commission handled using fluoride in the town water.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • Jon Thornton, water systems operator for the Bradford Water and Sewer Commission, changes a flow rate chart in a pump house. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Jon Thornton, water systems operator for the Bradford Water and Sewer Commission, changes a flow rate chart in a pump house. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • Dr. Robert Munson talks to a patient at his dental clinic in Bradford, Vt., yesterday. Munson has not liked the way the water commission handled using fluoride in the town water.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Jon Thornton, water systems operator for the Bradford Water and Sewer Commission, changes a flow rate chart in a pump house. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

— 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. Opponents of the commission’s decision to stop fluoridating the town’s water supply after three decades argued that fluoridation has long been demonstrated to provide health benefits, such as fighting tooth decay.

“The whole commission is forcing people to take a medication without their consent,” said Peggy Coutermarsh, who strongly supports the board’s decision to discontinue water fluoridation. “I don’t think the water board has the legal right to be writing prescriptions.”

More than 50 attendees filed into the Bradford Academy building last night to weigh in on the board’s early May decision and consider the pros and cons of fluoride in the town’s water supply.

After hearing the opinions of more than 20 attendees, Commission Chairman Robert Nutting said the board would mull over the input and slate the fluoride discussion for the commission’s Dec. 11 meeting. Nutting, however, said he was unable to determine whether or not the board’s previous decision would stand, if the board would cast another vote or if residents would have a chance to weigh in through a Town Meeting vote in March.

Those opposed to the elimination of fluoride in drinking water — including three Vermont state workers, three dentists and one medical doctor — said fluoride in drinking water promotes dental health.

Bradford Dentist Dr. Robert Munson said it is vital for children to take fluoride every day and by having it in the water allows even low-income families to get the recommended dosage.

“We need it every day,” Munson said, who also spoke in regard to fluorosis — the act of receiving too much fluoride causing the teeth’s enamel to change. Some of those who supported the removal of fluoride in the town’s water cited fluorosis as a reason they opposed fluoridation; however, Munson said “I have not seen a case of fluorosis in my practice in Bradford.”

Bradford Dentist Charlie Barton agreed with Munson in that he hasn’t seen a case of fluorosis in Bradford either.

Commissioner Nutting said the board decided to stop fluoridation after a hose that adds fluoride shutdown and a new pump house was built. Although the pump house has the necessary hookups to supply fluoride, Nutting said, it nonetheless doesn’t currently have the full equipment needed to pump the fluoride into the water system.

Vermont State Public Health Dental Hygienist and Fluoridation Technician Coordinator Linda Greaves said if the town of Bradford votes in favor of water fluoridation, the state would provide the town with the necessary equipment.

Nutting said one of two reasons as to why the board voted in favor of discontinuing fluoridation was financial.

“There’s no equipment cost, but continuing to buy the fluoride costs money,” he explained, which was estimated by the commission’s office manager to cost $1,200 annually.

Nutting said the second reason for voting against fluoridation was because he, himself, was unaware of “how much (fluoride) is too much.”

“And no one can really answer that question with a hard and firm answer,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control promotes fluoridation in public water supplies.

“For 65 years, community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay,” the CDC states on its website. “A person’s income level or ability to receive routine dental care is not a barrier to receiving its health benefits.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, which holds a standard for regulating the amount of fluoride in a town’s water supply, reevaluated the current science of fluoride and according to a January 2011 EPA risk assessment study, the agency “will rely on these new assessments to review the existing maximum level of fluoride allowed in the drinking water.”

But at the same time, the EPA said it “has not yet made a decision about revising the drinking water standard for fluoride,” which currently sits at .7 milligrams per liter, according to the study.

The decision to fluoridate water is made either at the State or local level and is not mandated by a Federal agency, the EPA reported — which made the Bradford commission’s decision legal.

Legalities aside, many people present last night thought the commission acted poorly. Resident’s said they didn’t have a chance to voice their opinion prior to the vote as to whether or not the fluoride should’ve been removed — and after the vote was cast, resident’s said the commission didn’t notify the public of the change in a timely fashion.

“It’s inexcusable to not tell the public until November. The people should know,” said Selectboard member Ted Unkles, who spoke of the six-month gap from when fluoridation was stopped and when residents were notified.

Vermont State Toxicologist Sarah Vose tired to break through speculation last night, saying fluoridation in drinking water is at regulated levels that are intended to not be harmful to an individual’s body.

“You have to have extreme caution when interpreting the studies,” Vose said. “There are some conflicting papers, but studies done at drinking water concentrations do not cause adverse health effects.”

Stuart Cooper, the national campaign manager for the Fluoride Action Network, disagreed with Vose and added fluoride is the “only substance on earth” that is given to the general public without “a controlled dose.” Cooper said fluoridated water has negative impacts on infants and young children and should be left up to the individual as to whether or not they want to ingest it.

“When you put it in the water you cannot control dose. It’s impossible,” he said. “You cannot control who it goes to. It goes to infants, it goes to elderly, it goes to people with kidney impairment, it goes to people with iodine deficiencies. There is no control of dosage. What other drug on earth will a pharmacist give to any patient in any amount they choose? None. Zero. It doesn’t exist.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@gmail.com.


Editorial: Bradford Regresses

Friday, November 30, 2012

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …