For personal hygiene-conscious Duxbury residents, recent debate surrounding water fluoridation may seem confusing. It has widely been accepted by dentists that brushing with toothpaste containing fluoride and drinking fluoridated water is a healthy choice.
One group of Duxbury residents, however, is aiming to shed some light on the issue and to give residents a choice in whether they consume the preventive medication.
Peter Capraro, founder of Duxbury Residents for Fluoride Choice, said he and a friend started the organization in the fall of 2012 after having a conversation about the amount of fluoride their families consume on a daily basis.
“Duxbury is one of only five towns out of the 27 in Plymouth County that fluoridates their water,” Capraro said. “It costs the town approximately $22,500 a year to fluoridate.”
In the beginning of January, Capraro sent a formal request to the Board of Health to lower the amount of fluoride in the town’s water to .7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water (.7mg/L), the adjusted recommended level set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2011.
The recommended range of fluoride in the water is .7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter of water. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children should not use fluoridated toothpaste until two years of age. Capraro said it would be difficult for parents with children to avoid fluoride if it is in the water.
The ADA explains the benefits of fluoridated water as it “helps prevent tooth decay in children and adults. Simply by drinking water, people can benefit from fluoridation’s cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.”
Capraro said the organization has met with the water department, the board of health and the town counsel. The process of removing fluoride from the water is three-fold and includes asking the town for permission to place the question on the ballot and petitioning to the state for permission to put the vote on the town meeting warrant.
Co-founder Diane Siroonian said she stumbled on what she called “shocking” information on the toxicity of fluoride when researching an unrelated medical issue. After finding a number of studies about the negative effects of fluoridated water, Siroonian decided she did not want her family ingesting the water.
“I was blown away by entire sites devoted to studies on the negative side effects of fluoridated water,” she said.
After deciding not to use the town’s water, Siroonian started buying bottled water with the lowest amount of fluoride in it, which, she says, gets very costly.
Pete Mackin, Duxbury Water and Sewer Superintendent, said he has met with the organization and heard their concerns. He said he provided them with as much information as possible, including the process of fluoridating the water.
The town of Duxbury uses a sodium fluoride saturator, which automatically prepares a 4 percent saturated solution of sodium fluoride that is ready to be pumped into the water supply. If the town decided to no longer fluoridate, Mackin said the process to stop would be quite simple.
“The Water Department is not a proponent of or an opponent to the issue,” Mackin said. “We are staying in compliance with the wishes of public health department and their specifications.”
Mackin said the decision to fluoridate was a choice made by voters at the 1985 town meeting. At that time, he said, it was a healthy choice they wanted.
Capraro and Siroonian both said their main goal with the organization is to put the issue on the radar and to provide residents with as much information as possible.
“Our issue is that we don’t have a choice,” Siroonian said. “If you decide you don’t want it, you have to go through a costly change to live without it.”
The Duxbury Residents for Fluoride Choice plans to offer a solution to the town if they vote to stop fluoridation. Capraro said residents who would like fluoride supplements may ask their physician for a prescription. Many towns, he said, buy a supply of the supplement to give out to those residents who can’t afford a prescription.
The organization will hold an information session at the Senior Center next week that is open to the public. Capraro said he is planning on meeting with the selectmen next week as well.
“This is an issue of freedom of choice,” he said. “We just want people to look into it and make a decision for themselves.”