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fluoridated water is taking a bath again

For more than seven decades, despite the proven benefits of water fluoridation of water systems in stemming tooth decay and other oral hygiene issues, the controversy persists.

Along with the suspicions of COVID-19 vaccines and other preventives, water fluoridation is finding a new legion of deniers, and in some cases it is causing communities to end fluoridation of their water supplies.

One of these municipalities is the borough of Catasauqua in Lehigh County. Last fall, the Catasauqua Borough Council voted to change to a nonfluoridated water system. Council members said they don’t have the money to continue the fluoridation process. Some residents told me that they suspect darker reasons for the decision, including the belief that fluoridation is some kind of an international movement to control communities and their residents.

I was stunned to find out how few municipalities in our five-county Times News region have fluoridated water supplies. According to Action PA, a nonprofit research and environmental group, just one system among the 31 in Carbon County is fluoridated, and this system serves about 1,100 residents in tiny Beaver Meadows borough in the northern part of the county near the Luzerne County line.

There are seven fluoridated systems in Lehigh County, six in Northampton County, and one each in Schuylkill and Monroe counties, Action PA reports.

The Lehigh County systems in addition to Catasauqua are: Allentown, Hanover Township, Salisbury Township, South Whitehall Township, Upper Saucon Township and Whitehall Township.

The Northampton County systems are: Bethlehem, Easton, Easton Suburban Water Authority, Airport Road, Lower Saucon Township and Northampton borough.

The lone Schuylkill system is in the borough of Schuylkill Haven, while the only Monroe system is at the sprawling Tobyhanna Army Depot complex in Coolbaugh Township north of Mount Pocono.

Fluoridated water systems have been around since 1945 when one was introduced as a pilot project in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even before the program began, when doctors were testing children to have base data to compare after the fluoride “experiment,” there were bogus public complaints about sore gums and peeling tooth enamel, because news media reports had indicated that the program had begun when it really had not.

The results were so successful that comparative studies intended to last 15 years came to an end after only six, because communities throughout the United States had begun fluoridating their water with unequivocal support from the national Public Health Service, the Surgeon General and the American Dental Association.

As of this writing, nearly three-quarters of the nation’s residents have access to fluoridated water.

Although fluoridation was caricaturized in the 1964 Dr. Strangelove movie, right-wing groups have maintained that fluoridation is a nefarious plot. The John Birch Society in its heyday pedaled dark motives behind the fluoridation movement. During the 1950s and ’60s, the Birchers and other conspiracy theorists claimed that fluoridation was a communist plot to undermine American public health.

According to the Science History Institute, members of the Fluoride Action Network and Citizens for Safe Drinking Water have linked the chemical to several varieties of cancer, diminished intelligence, birth defects, declining birth rates, heart disease and other maladies. The Sierra Club worries about the “potential adverse impact of fluoridation on the environment, wildlife and human health.” Many opponents see fluoridation as a consequence of collusion among industry, government and the scientific establishment.

But all of these allegations have been proven to be without merit. Because the data show how effective fluoridation has been in preventing tooth decay, naysayers have a tough mountain to climb to sell their propaganda, so instead, they are now advocating voluntary and personal choice use of topical uses of fluoride, such as in pill form, toothpaste or other delivery methods that don’t involve the water supply.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.