As some Cape Ann residents and local Conservation Commissions continue to push for the removal of fluoride in drinking water, a California court is expected to rule on the issue. 

A fluoridated water case, originally filed in 2017, is slated for an eight-day hearing in federal court in Berkeley, California, starting April 20. 

In 2016, the Food & Water Watch and several other national organizations petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fulfill responsibilities under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) regulations by banning the addition of fluoridation chemicals to water.

Gloucester resident Karen Favazza Spencer, a member of  Food & Water Watch, was among those who testified. The EPA rejected the request.

"The petition does not set forth facts that satisfactorily demonstrate to the agency that fluoridation chemicals present an unreasonable risk to human health, specifically arising from these chemical substances' use to fluoridate drinking water," the EPA said in rejecting the groups' petition. 

The groups appealed the EPA rejection in the 2017 suit, filed by attorney Michael Connett. Their suit seeks to "compel the initiation of rule-making pursuant of the Toxic Substances Control Act to prohibit the adding of fluoridation chemicals to drinking water supplies."  

Talk of the town

According to the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking fluoride keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities.

Gloucester voters decided to keep fluoride in Gloucester’s water through a 2015 referendum, and last summer the City Council shot down a proposed home rule petition that could have ended the addition of sodium fluoride to Gloucester’s water supply after going through the state Legislature. 

Rockport's Board of Health has unanimously supported community water fluoridation in town. 

"It decreases the gap in tooth decay rates between upper and lower income people and is an effective method of receding the social-economic-status disparity in the burden of dental cavities," according to a document signed by Rockport Board of Health m members Sydney M. Wedmore, MD, Sydney E. Jimenez, MD, and Russ Sandfield, DDS.

By identifying the health benefits of ingesting fluoride, the CDC confirmed that community water fluoridation -- the inserting of fluoride into public drinking water -- also saves money for both families and the U.S. health care system.

"A recent 2016 economic analysis found that for communities of 1,000 or more people, the savings associated with water fluoridation exceeded estimated program costs, with an average annual savings of $420 per dollar invested," says the CDC on its official website. "Additionally, individuals in communities that fluoridate water save an average of $32 per person by avoiding treatment for dental caries. Nationwide, this same study found, community water fluoridation programs have been estimated to provide nearly $6.5 billion a year in net cost savings by averting direct dental treatment costs (tooth restorations and extractions) and indirect costs (losses of productivity and follow-up treatment)."

Fluoride risks 

What might be a positive economic impact doesn't matter if the well-being of the community is at risk, said Spencer.  

"The sodium fluoride we put in Gloucester's water, also in Rockport's and Manchester's water, is the same exact substance that they put into pesticides with the warning: Do not dispose of in water," Spencer exclaimed. 

Having identified fluoride to be the leading factor in her own medical complications, Spencer has been advocating that community water fluoridation can cause learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and significant loss in cognitive function for babies. 

"Whether from food or water, maternal doses of fluoride endorsed by fluoridation proponents poison babies' bodies and brains in the womb," wrote Spencer in a letter to a variety of Schools of Public Health and Nutrition and the Health and Medicine Division at the U.S. National Academics of Sciences.

Spencer and like-minded residents aren't the only people against community water fluoridation. Gloucester and Rockport's Conservation Commissions as well as the Gloucester Shellfish Commission have gone on the record opposing their communities' fluoridation policy. 

"As the fluoride ion itself is a poison that can and does adversely affect biological function in plants, people, fish and animals and the bulk of the approximate 5 tons of fluoridation product purchased each year by the city ends up in our environment along with incidental other contaminant contained in that product, our opposition is in keeping with our mission to protect public interests including public and private water supplies, ground water, local flora and fauna and their habitats," wrote Gloucester's Conservation Commission Co-Chairman Rob Gulla in a letter to Mayor Sefatia then Romeo Theken and then Council President Paul Lundberg in 2019.

Alan MacMillan of Rockport's Conservation Commission agrees, having written a letter to the Times regarding his frustrations with the current state of the town's water. 

 "Ultimately, the liability and the accountability for fluoridation rests with the municipalities," Spencer said. "With the cities and towns."

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@northofboston.com.

 

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