In Terri Buckner’s April 7 opinion piece, she presents herself as impartial: “As a member of the OWASA Board of Directors, I’ve invested many hours trying to understand the arguments against fluoride.” Yet her piece does not resemble an impartial opinion. She says that it’s OK to add fluoride to our drinking water because it has been used “for nearly 70 years.” True, fluoride has been added to many U.S. water systems for decades; it has also been banned by many U.S. cities for decades. Claiming that fluoridation is harmless because it has been around for years is the self-serving rationale used by supporters of DDT, asbestos, and Red Dye No. 40. Because something has been used for years is no reason to keep using it after evidence of its potential harm to people, animals, or the environment.
To discredit fluoridation opposition, she claims that fluoride is not a neurotoxin. But she does not present any evidence that fluoride isn’t a “developmental neurotoxin.” If fluoride is not a neurotoxin, it would be easy to prove: all you need to do is drink a glass of water with 0.25 grams of fluoride. If you survive your not-neurotoxindized-water experiment, you might change the minds of even the most hardcore opponents of fluoridation.
When addressing people’s concerns about compulsory medication, she makes it seem like OWASA technicians say “abracadabra!” and change the drug fluoride into not-a-drug. Perhaps a 17th century alchemist would agree with the idea of magically transforming a drug into being not-a-drug. But 21st century chemists, and the FDA, consider fluoride a drug when it goes into our water system, and the same drug when we ingest it. There are many rational reasons for having a choice when it comes to consuming any drug.
Ms. Buckner did not mention any studies of human illnesses – especially among infants – connected to fluoride. She did not mention studies on health problems in livestock, poultry, pets and wild critters. She didn’t think it important to inform readers that despite their rejection of water fluoridation, cities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia have experienced the same decline in tooth decay as fluoridated cities. Her claim that fluoride is beneficial and harmless is questionable when that opinion is accepted only by scientists in a few time zones.
Ms. Buckner's only mention of an international scientific community was a sentence culled from a 1994 WHO document. Although that WHO document favors the use of fluoride, it does not claim that fluoride is completely harmless. The sentence following the one she cites says, “However, there are some undesirable side-effects with excessive fluoride intake ... it may not be possible to achieve effective fluoride-based caries prevention without some degree of dental fluorosis. . . .”
It would be helpful if Ms. Buckner explained why she relied on an outdated WHO document instead of more recent reports by WHO, the EU, and American Dental Association. In recent studies, scientists who oppose fluoridation, as well as those who favor fluoridation, believe the issue needs more study.
The debate in this country about the safety and usefulness of fluoridation has been around for many years. But the OWASA board has been treating this issue as if it is the imaginary problem of crackpots. At the two meetings I attended, the OWASA board heard hours of presentations from more than a dozen anti-fluoridation people. Only a few pro-fluoride people spoke, and they all said basically the same thing: “Fluoride is good because we’ve been using it for years.” The pro-fluoride people did not refute any scientific opinions presented by the anti-fluoride people. Yet the OWASA board made their decision after a recess that lasted about five minutes. The board’s super-quick decision, without carefully deliberating the opposing views, raises questions about their impartiality.
According to the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine accepted by most municipal governments, “By following Appearance of Fairness requirements, local governments have a method for disqualifying decision-makers ... who have prejudged the issues ... or who cannot otherwise be impartial.”
In the interest of fairness, OWASA board members who cannot unbiasedly examine all sides of an issue should resign. Then they would be free to openly serve their special interests, instead of pretending to be looking out for the best interests of our community. And if Orange County residents cannot expect fairness regarding important issues, then the OWASA board is useless.
Lamont E. Wilkins lives in Chapel Hill.