Sen. Joseph Markley has questioned whether Connecticut should mandate that fluoride be added to drinking water, but his guest speaker at an informational hearing Wednesday wanted to see fluoridated water banned altogether.
During the recently-concluded legislative session, Markley, a Republican from Southington, proposed a bill that would have lifted Connecticut’s requirement that municipalities add fluoride drinking water. “Why not let municipalities decide for themselves?” he said in February.
But the dental community pushed back against the legislation, arguing that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. The billed died an early death and Markley, who pointed to studies suggesting fluoride raises health concerns, said he was glad to have started a conversation on the topic.
On Wednesday, he continued that conversation with an informational hearing in Hartford. He said he had proposed the bill looking to reduce state mandates on municipalities only to become aware of a debate over fluoridating water.
“I suppose I knew about fluoridation about what everyone does — I’m a great fan of Stanley Kubrick, the director, and I guess my most vivid impression of fluoridation has to do with my many viewings of the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the kind of thing that doesn’t necessarily encourage you to take the subject seriously,” he said.
After raising the bill, Markley heard from dentists, who told him that the case for fluoridated water had already been made, and people opposed to fluoridation who were excited to have someone in government speaking out on the issue. He said those people made a case against the practice.
“I thought it raised legitimate questions about the efficacy of it and the safety of it,” he said.
Markley scheduled an informational hearing, during which he said he hoped to hear debate between opponents and proponents of putting fluoride in our drinking water. But he did not get a debate. The state’s dental associations declined to take part in the hearing, he said.
The anti-fluoridation speaker, Paul Connett, did attend and spoke to Markley and Reps. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, and Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, for over an hour. Connett is a former chemistry professor at St. Lawrence University who now heads up the Fluoride Action Network.
Connett disputed that fluoridated water helps fight tooth decay and spent much of his presentation pointing to studies indicating that it can be linked to health problems especially in children and the elderly.
He characterized municipalities voting to fluoridate their water supply as voting to “have our neighbors medicated.” Connecticut and 12 other states take it one step further by mandating that towns fluoridate water, he said.
Connett applauded Markley for working to lift the state mandate and encouraged him keep working on the issue.
“Go on and make Connecticut the first state in the United States to ban fluoridation outright,” he said, prompting applause from people in the hearing room. “In actual fact, prohibit the use of the public water supply to deliver any medicine.”
Markley wasn’t sure how much more he would pursue water fluoridation.
“I have to say, Sen. Markley sometimes wonders exactly what he stepped into and how far he wants to push it,” he said following Connett’s remarks.
After the hearing, Markley noted he was not a scientist and was not ready to judge whether fluoride was dangerous. He said Connett’s presentation did raise questions which reinforce his position the state shouldn’t be mandating it. Still, he said he would have to see more interest from other lawmakers before proposing legislation again.
“I’m not one to tilt at windmills, repeatedly anyways,” he said.
During the meeting, Markley read a letter from the Connecticut Coalition For Oral Health calling community water fluoridation the single most effective public health measure preventing tooth decay and other dental diseases.
“For most cities, every dollar invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment,” the letter said.
Connett railed against the dental community, calling the letter an “almost religious statement” of their belief in the efficacy of fluoride.
“I think it’s incredibly arrogant for dentists to force this practice on people when they don’t have the guts or the confidence to come to a meeting like this and actually deal with me face to face,” he said.
Connecticut State Dental Association President Mark Desrosiers said the association was interested in helping to broaden the knowledge of the state’s elected officials. In a statement, he said “the CSDA was not interested in participating in a debate over science that is well established and accepted by the public health and medical community.
“In this case, fluoridation decreases dental disease and thus decreases the incidence of dental problems. This results in better health for our patients. Our member dentists put the health and well-being of their patients before their own needs. Inflammatory and emotional statements do not add to the knowledge that people need to make educated decisions,” he said.