In Boothbay area, water fluoridation sparks debate about public well being and private selection

In Boothbay area, water fluoridation sparks debate about public well being and private selection
In Boothbay area, water fluoridation sparks debate about public well being and private selection

Anna Christina Rogers of Boothbay Harbor leads the Fluoride Opposition Committee, which is pushing to cease the observe of including fluoride to ingesting water handled by the Boothbay Area Water District. Ben McCanna/Workers Photographer

Residents of the Boothbay area will determine subsequent month in the event that they need to proceed fluoridating public ingesting water, a debate that surfaces often in Maine and throughout the nation that pits issues about private selection in opposition to public well being advantages.

The vote within the Boothbay Area Water District – Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Southport – comes 18 years after residents added fluoride to their ingesting water. November’s repeal effort is led by a gaggle that questions its security and efficacy.

“Fluoridating the general public water provide takes away all the means for a person to decide on if and once they need to ingest fluoride,” mentioned Anna Christina Rogers of Boothbay Harbor, who leads the Fluoride Opposition Committee which put the referendum query on the poll.

However the U.S. medical neighborhood broadly agrees it’s a very good public well being technique, one that’s secure, cost-effective and particularly vital for essentially the most susceptible members of the neighborhood, together with low-income youngsters whose households have restricted entry to dental care.

Fluoride is usually added to public water provides throughout the nation and has lengthy been acknowledged by the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention as one of many 10 nice public well being achievements of the twentieth century. The observe started in Michigan within the Nineteen Forties as a solution to forestall tooth decay and is now mandated in 15 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Water is fluoridated in additional than 125 Maine cities, based on the Maine CDC, which says the observe is secure, cheap and efficient. As a result of many individuals use non-public wells, about 40% of Maine’s whole inhabitants has fluoridated ingesting water.

Well being specialists say it prevents tooth decay, particularly in youngsters. However the observe routinely faces pushback from individuals who argue that it results in mass remedy and over-fluoridation.

Many Maine communities started including fluoride as early because the Sixties. One other 10 started the observe within the early 2000s, together with within the Boothbay Area and the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District – which voted in 2016 to reverse a 2002 referendum and cease including fluoride to its ingesting water.

The sodium fluoride utilized by the Boothbay Area Water District is imported from China as a result of there are not any North American sources, based on the water district. However that has been suspended since early September due to provide chain points.

Dr. Steve Mills, a semi-retired pediatric dentist who sits on the board of the Kids’s Oral Well being Community of Maine, advocates for water fluoridation and mentioned a vote to cease it within the Boothbay area is a “step backward.”

“Dental decay continues to be an issue. It’s not trivial and it results those that can least entry care,” he mentioned.


Rogers, an herbalist and therapeutic massage therapist, mentioned she has heard folks within the space speaking about ending water fluoridation, however momentum towards making that change didn’t begin constructing till earlier this 12 months when the Fluoride Opposition Committee introduced the problem to the three cities served by the water district. Boothbay and Southport agreed to place a referendum query on the November poll.

The Boothbay Harbor Board of Selectmen didn’t vote on the proposal, however it will likely be on their poll as a result of state legislation says if two of the three cities served by the water district name for a public vote, the third city has to do the identical, mentioned board member Denise Griffin.

Griffin mentioned most choose board members seem to favor persevering with the observe due to the advantages to youngsters and seniors.

“All of the dental well being professionals and scientists within the space have mentioned it’s good and acceptable for the neighborhood,” she mentioned.

Rogers, who speaks on behalf of the Fluoride Opposition Committee and filters fluoride out of her personal water, mentioned water fluoridation is “a really outdated observe” and that lots of the youngsters within the area don’t profit from it as a result of their properties use properly water. Fluoride is simplest when utilized topically, she mentioned.

“We have to train our youngsters to brush their enamel, to deal with themselves and never simply complement the general public water provide as a result of that’s the best solution to go,” Rogers mentioned.

Stevie Hale of Boothbay Harbor, who spoke at a public listening to on the referendum, mentioned she questions whether or not water fluoridation is correct for the neighborhood due to the variety of folks on properly water and the area’s older inhabitants. She raised issues in regards to the impression of fluoride on bone density and whether or not infants who drink formulation and others who devour massive quantities of water may overdose on fluoride.

The Environmental Safety Company regulates and units requirements for the way a lot fluoride is allowed in public water programs to forestall folks from ingesting an excessive amount of.

Mills, the pediatric dentist, offered scientific proof at that listening to saying research present water fluoridation isn’t related to most cancers, decreased bone density, or neurological points. He mentioned he has not seen proof of sufferers ingesting an excessive amount of fluoride and creating fluorosis, a situation that causes ache or tenderness and may change the looks of tooth enamel.

Rogers is annoyed by what she calls “false and deceptive” info offered by city leaders, dentists and medical doctors in letters to the editor and at public conferences. Feedback by these people who fluoride is a pure mineral “makes folks assume it’s similar to including vitamin D to take advantage of or iodine to salt,” she mentioned.

“These folks have a selection to purchase these supplemented gadgets,” she mentioned. “We who’re paying for the city water don’t have a option to decide out.”


Residents and well being officers who assist it say the general public well being advantages outweigh issues that aren’t backed by science.

Wendy Wolf of Boothbay Harbor is a pediatric heart specialist and former CEO of the Maine Well being Entry Basis who has been talking publicly in favor of constant with fluoridation. Good dental and oral well being are crucial total for kids’s well being, she mentioned, and he or she has seen sufferers expertise severe well being points that stemmed from cavities and abscessed enamel.

Maine’s scarcity of dentists and dental hygienists coupled with the agricultural nature of the state makes it exhausting for a lot of households to entry satisfactory dental care, however water fluoridation may also help forestall dental illness, Wolf mentioned.

“It’s one thing we will do locally that helps each baby and doesn’t should depend on private duty to make sure children have each likelihood to have wholesome enamel and are spared the burden of dental illness,” she mentioned.

Dr. John Andrews, whose dental observe is in Boothbay Harbor, mentioned throughout the public listening to that he helped add fluoride to the water provide almost 20 years in the past and nonetheless sees the advantages for his sufferers of all ages. He mentioned he “firmly believes” fluoridating water is the best factor to do.

“Something now we have in our toolkit to assist is helpful,” he mentioned.

Fluoride does happen naturally in some water, however environmental testing of the area’s water sources – Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake – have by no means proven detectable ranges of fluoride. That requires extra fluoride to be added to ingesting water on the Adams Pond Therapy Plant, based on Jonathan Ziegra, normal supervisor of the water district.

Ziegra mentioned the water district has not taken a place for or in opposition to the Nov. 8 referendum as a result of it believes the choice ought to be made by residents.

The water district makes use of sodium fluoride, which is licensed by the Nationwide Sanitation Basis.

“In its pure state, sodium fluoride, an odorless, white crystalline powder, is a really poisonous chemical, requiring, particular coaching for dealing with, particular private protecting gear, and tight, safe management of pure chemical in storage,” Ziegra wrote in a letter to the editor revealed final week within the Boothbay Register.

Since discussions about water fluoridation started earlier this 12 months, Ziegra has fielded just a few questions from residents in regards to the course of.

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