Duxbury selectmen are supporting a group of residents in their effort to remove fluoride from the town’s drinking water.Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to recommend approval of a town meeting warrant article that seeks to end the practice of adding sodium fluoride to Duxbury’s water supply, which began in 1985. A residents’ group named Duxbury Fluoride Choice is bringing the citizen’s petition forward.
Duxbury Fluoride Choice spokesman Pete Capraro told selectmen this week that he and his group are “not for or against fluoride,” but that they feel residents should have a choice on the issue for many reasons. He said he and others are concerned about residents ingesting too much fluoride.
Fluoride is listed as a controlled substance by the state and is only available via a municipal water supply or by a prescription from a doctor or dentist, according to Capraro. Because of this, Capraro said that people should have the opportunity to choose whether they want to ingest fluoride.
“As a prescription medication, shouldn’t the entire community have the right to informed consent and have the right to choose what they ingest when the prescription medication does not involve the quality and safety of the water supply?” stated a memo to selectmen from Duxbury Fluoride Choice.
Capraro said that one of the problems with adding fluoride to drinking water is that it is impossible to monitor how much fluoride residents are ingesting. He said fluoride is found in many foods and liquids, such as prepared juices, because it is in the water supply that irrigates crops. Because it is so prevalent, people ingest fluoride without knowing it and then they get it in their water, also.
Capraro said on its packaging sodium fluoride is listed as a toxic substance when ingested that can damage the heart, kidneys, bones, the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and teeth.
“Here is a toxic substance that all of us have been ingesting, that the FDA has never approved nor done any human or animal clinical trials on,” Capraro said.
There is a lot of information available about both the harm and benefits of fluoride, according to Duxbury Fluoride Choice. Some studies have shown that too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, which causes the breakdown of tooth enamel as well as discoloration and pitting of the teeth. An excess of fluoride may also create brittle bones and may have a negative effect on the brain.
“Our intention is not to critique or debate individual studies or prove that fluoride is safe or unsafe, but rather to demonstrate that there is no consensus in the medical community on this issue. This makes us concerned enough about daily exposure to fluoride to lead us to the desire to have a choice,” according to Duxbury Fluoride Choice.
In the past, fluoridating Duxbury’s water supply has been controversial. The move to fluoridate failed by 1,214 votes when it was first suggested in 1980 but passed five years later by 22 votes, said Capraro.
Currently, the level of fluoride in Duxbury’s water is .98. In 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommended a .7 level of fluoride in public water supplies. Water Superintendent Peter Mackin said it costs approximately $22,000 a year to add sodium fluoride to Duxbury’s water. This includes the cost of the fluoride and the annual costs to replace two to three of the water department’s ten fluoride saturators.
Selectman Shawn Dahlen said he did not see any need for Duxbury to continue to fluoride its water. If, as Capraro said, only five towns out of 27 in Plymouth County fluoridate their water then, Dahlen said, “It is certainly not a standard we need to keep up with.”
Capraro said Duxbury Fluoride Choice has requested that the Duxbury Board of Health drop the level of fluoride to .7. in the town’s drinking water. He also noted that the water advisory board voted in favor of eliminating fluoride.
Dahlen said he checked with the town counsel and learned that the Board of Health has the power to remove fluoride at any time from town water without waiting for any town meeting action. Selectmen, as water commissioners, do not have that power, he said.
However, Dahlen said the warrant article by Duxbury Fluoride Choice that calls for a ballot question asking residents about fluoridation could be seen as a non-binding referendum that the board of health could use in making its decision.
“This will give the board of health an idea of how residents feel,” said Dahlen.
In other business, Selectmen:
Voted to recommend approval of a town meeting article that allows the town to accept state money for road repair. This is an annual article.
Voted not to recommend approval of an article sponsored by A New Day, a woman’s shelter that is seeking a $3,000 donation, because the town cannot legally give donations.
Voted to recommend approval of an article that will allow the town manager to negotiate and enter into an agreement with the owner of the solar array being constructed at the town’s transfer station on Mayflower Street. The agreement calls for a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. However, instead of any funds coming from the solar array operator to the town, the town will receive a discount on its energy costs equal to the amount of the electricity the solar array produces. This discount should equal a third of what the town currently pays for electricity, said Jim Goldenberg of the Duxbury Alternative Energy Committee. The savings could come to approximately $50,000, town officials said.
Voted unanimously to approve changes to the cemetery rules and regulations as proposed by cemetery superintendent Patricia Pappas. Pappas told the board the rules had not changed since 2008.