A water utility in Hixson drowned out pleas from customers asking for an end to the use of an industrial waste product in the water supply, one supported by tooth doctors.
Hixson Utility District on Friday rejected petitioners’ arguments, its board members stating that the science supports fluoridation as safe and healthy.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1140 AM 101.1 FM
The three members did not take a vote, citing unanimity of opinion in favor of hydrofluorocilicic acid, which critics argued in a 35-minute encounter causes neurological damage.
By holding its ground, the board imposes a chemical additive on people in their 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s and 20s to benefit those in their 10s, using a chemical that has been controverted from the beginning by scientists and dental experts.
In brief statements made after the end of the activist-promoted fluoride part of the meeting, the three board members stood in confidence of fluoride backers such as the American Dental Association.
Rebecca Hunter, a cabinet member of Gov. Bill Haslam who is Tennessee commissioner of human resources, said she is unswayed by arguments the acid is unsafe and said fluoride withstands fresh scientific scrutiny.
“I grew up in a very large family and did not live in an area that had fluoride and as a result grew up with a lot of cavities,” she said.
“My dentist can attest to all the fillings that I have,” she said. “The dentist that I go to actually asked me to rinse with fluoride before I leave. So I support fluoride and if you look at the most recent studies that out there there are *** some that have gone back and revisited some of the concerns you have raised and have spoken to those and we’ve got copies of those if you all would like to see them.”
Ken Rich, the least public of the board members, is an older man, perhaps in his mid-70s.
“We’ve researched what we could find out about fluoride,” he said, “and we found out that if it’s injected within limits, it’s been very beneficial in most water companies. When in a research we have done we have found all the agencies that are interested parties have studied the effects of fluoride on tooth decay are highly in favor of it. And I personally am in favor of continuing it. I don’t see any reason” to stop the injections.
District rejects liability query
Joining with his colleagues, Jeff Davis, an attorney employed by the state department of children’s services, said he is a dad who wants the water supply to contain fluoride for his offspring’s benefit.
“I am in favor of continuing fluoridation,” both as a father of two young children and “also as a child welfare attorney interested making sure the children I represent and advocate for in all aspects, including their dental health,” drink fluoridated water.
The board is not required “to vote on something we are going to continue to do,” Mr. Davis said, the fluoride part of the regularly monthly meeting recessed to give the room time to clear out.
A reporter asked him if he is not concerned about the utility’s liability for mass medicating its customers with an additive not required by law — is he not as an attorney concerned about the legal risks? He said he does not serve the board as counsel, and so could not speak of Hixson Utility District’s standing in the law. He refused to answer the question from his standing as a mere board member, saying enough had been revealed of members’ thinking.
Critics cite damage of mass delivery
Among the arguments rejected were those of Harriet Cash, a real estate agent; Becky Plotner, a naturopath with a North Georgia office who has a son with unusual health problems; and Carolyn Crider, whose 20-something son was vaccine injured in military service and who is vulnerable to chemical additives in food and drink.
“The fluoride cannot be controlled,” Mrs. Cash declared. “Once fluoride is put into the water it is impossible to control the dose each individual receives because people drink differing amounts of water.” Laborers, athletes, diabetics and people with kidney disease drink more water than other people, she said, speaking rapidly under a two-minute time limit. “Fluoride goes to everyone regardless of health, age or vulnerability,” she said.
She cited a Nobel-winning scientist who kept fluoridation out of Sweden whom she paraphrased as saying water fluoridation “goes against the leading principles of pharmacal therapy. The addition of drugs to the drinking water means exactly the opposite of an individualized therapy.”
Dentists polish old molar
Dentists took turns supporting the use of hydrofluorocilicic acid, an offsloughing from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Their interest is one area of the human body — the mouth — and they had no reservations about injury or damage of the mass product to other organs in the head or below the neck.
Dr. Ken Randall said eliminating fluoride from the water to spare a few customers from health problems would prompt those who want or need fluoride to have to shop for it, buy it and take their own dosages.
“Now, are we going to consider disenfranchising the majority to go toward the needs of the needs or the requests of a few — at the potential significant expense of all these other people having to go buy a specific bottle of water, go buy a specific fluoride supplement and that kind of thing? I think we need to consider the big picture for all of our customers.”
Dr. Elizabeth Bassett Stanford said it fluoride keeps patients from needing treatment and coming to dread going to the dentist. Patients come in “with multiple bad teeth, almost to the point where every tooth is bad,” she said. “It breaks my heart to have to numb them, drill on them, fill their teeth, possibly put crowns and put the to the point that they’re going to fear dental treatment.”
Dr. Stafford also has patients who ask, “‘Why — why are my teeth like this? One of the reasons: They grew up on well water. No fluoride. So they come in and time after time we have to do a filling, or a crown or pull their teeth and do dentures. And it breaks my heart because with a little bit of fluoride they could’ve saved some of their teeth.”
But she says tooth decay is genetic.
‘Greatest health achievement’
Dr. Andy Thomas of the Hamilton County health department said the CDC has called fluoride “one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century” and that the practice is “safe, effective and cost-saving.” He said 214 million Americans drink fluoridated water and keep their teeth longer after 71 years of water treatment. Dr. Thomas rattled off the impressive list of groups behind the chemical — the ADA, AMA, the Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization “and every surgeon general since 1950.”
Dr. Brian Schenck spoke to represent the advice of the Chattanooga-area dental society and urged the board to “continue the fluoridation practice here.” He said it is “effective, it is safe, it is a benefit to your customers here.” Tooth doctors are united in their endorsement of the practice, and he has heard no scientist, dentist, physician, engineer or expert who has any complaints about levels of the product, its toxicity or its use in the north Chattanooga district.
Another dentist, Mike Johnson, said no dentist would lose his license if he opposed fluoridation and that dentists do not get kickbacks from fluoride sellers as one critic alleged.
While two backers of the status quo offered to hand out copies of science reports to hostile visitors, it is not known what clean-water backers gave the board members by way of scientific paper such as a 2014 Lancet article that suggests fluoride be added to a list of developmentally neurologically damaging substances.