Juneau regresses to a superstitious past

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The current flap over fluoride in Juneau's water has a curiously old-fashioned flavor. Some years ago there was a nationwide campaign against fluoride in water, oddly financed by a very rich man who detested the notion.

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After every serious study determined that a small amount of fluoride added to city water was beneficial to everyone's teeth, especially babies', it was generally accepted as fact.

I have always had a personal interest in this issue, because as a little girl I lived in West Texas. There researchers found people had wonderfully strong, cavity-free teeth and became curious about this because the diet was not especially healthy nor was the lifestyle.

How peculiar that our Juneau Assembly, supposedly representing a relatively well-educated, sophisticated town, should regress to a superstitious past. Of course, in great quantities fluoride is poisonous - most things are. Should we stop putting chlorine in the water because bleach in large quantities is poisonous?

It took a long time before people understood how to purify water. During the Middle Ages, Europeans did not drink water from streams, but beer instead. They had no idea of germs, but they knew water was dangerous. Since open sewers dumped into them, they were correct.

Then germs were discovered, and science has since come a long way. Now we take it for granted that our city water will be potable. Treatment is well understood, cheap and simple.

Opponents airily say that if people want fluoride, they can buy pills or toothpaste. Fine - but what about poor people? Should we doom them to cavities because they can't afford these?

Thirty physicians and dentists testified before the Assembly on this issue, pointing out that every reputable medical and dental association supports adding fluoride to our water. Why did the Assembly felt it knew better?

Please don't believe everything you read on the Internet; look at the Web sites of the American Medical Society, the American Dental Association, and try to avoid the conspiracy theory sites. Sign the petitions to provide fluoride in the water and help the poor.

You'll be glad you did.

Dee Longenbaugh

Juneau



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