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Allentown Approves Water Fluoridation

PAUL CARPENTER (Allentown Morning Call Columnist)

If they win fluoride fight, what's next?


According to a story on Friday's front page, assorted facts and figures show that Allentown's water should be fluoridated. Most other municipal water systems are fluoridated, but various fiends in Allentown have resisted the holy crusade for decades.

Allentown stands as a thorn in the side of government control freaks. How dare the city resist them? Compulsory fluoride consumption is good for you. The government says so, so it must be true.

Friday's story said the Allentown Board of Health, a government agency, voted to support a city fluoridation ordinance introduced in October.

Health Director Barbara Stader was quoted as saying there previously had been no statistical data upon which to base her claims that a lack of fluoridation is to blame for the city's poor dental health.

''This is the first time we actually tried to measure it,'' Stader said.

The story than cited statistics provided by Shirley Nyland, representing a true-blue independent nongovernmental organization called Citizens for Children's Dental Health.

The story said that the statistics were based on four years of dental examinations and showed that Allentown School District children have 50 percent more tooth decay than children in the Bethlehem Area School District, where water is fluoridated. The figures were provided to C.C.D.H. by the state Department of Health.

I checked with the Health Department on that and was referred to Charles Ludwig, who has been one of the state's chief cheerleaders for the fluoridation industry since 1970.

In 1994, Ludwig finally got official status as the Health Department's chief fluoridation cheerleader.

So I called his office to find out how the data comparing Bethlehem and Allentown was derived. I told a secretary what I was after and she at first said she'd put me right through to Ludwig, but after a few minutes on hold she came back and said he was not available after all. I left messages for him to call, but he never did.

Anyhow, the city Health Bureau (Stader) wants fluoridation because of data that prove Allentown kids have rotten teeth, and the data come from C.C.D.H. (true-blue nongovernmental group), which got its figures from the state Health Department (Ludwig).

The next thing I looked at was the board of directors of the true-blue C.C.D.H., and guess who are among those listed: Stader and Ludwig.

Now, I'm not suggesting that anybody cooked the figures, but just once I'd like to see a genuinely independent study of the effects of fluoridation, untainted by the influence of government control freaks.

Instead, we have the city Health Board's medical adviser, Edward Rosenfeld, who was quoted as saying this about people getting pre-employment physicals: ''I can tell from their teeth that they're from Allentown.''

He can tell that from their teeth? No one from elsewhere has bad teeth? No one from Allentown has good teeth? Individual flossing, fluoridated toothpaste, etc. have no bearing?

But let us suppose the statistics were not cooked. Let's say fluoridation is effective in fighting tooth decay. My main objection is not its lack of efficacy, but its lack of principle.

Fluoridation represents forced medication of every citizen, and that is as wrong as it can be. It is not like the chlorination of water, which prevents the water from harming people; it is direct medication of individuals.

Once the control freaks win their final fluoridation battles in places like Allentown, what's next? Perhaps they can cite data that show school children do better when medicated with Ritalin. Therefore, let's medicate every child, which, in some school districts, seems to be the goal already.

Perhaps violence can be curbed by adding tranquilizers to public water. Perhaps rape and sexually transmitted diseases can be curbed by adding medications to diminish libido.

The list of efficacious compulsory medications could be endless, once they are able to get the Allentown fluoridation thorn out of their side.

The last thing they want is to let individuals decide for themselves what's in their own best interest.

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Allentown makes its fluoride choice: Yes

Council passes bill 5-2 after hearing from 45 people Wednesday.


Of The Morning Call

Allentown City Council overcame 40 years of opposition to fluoridation Wednesday night when it voted to add the cavity-fighting chemical to the water supply.

Council listened to comments from 45 people -- 30 of them in favor of fluoridation and 15 opposed -- before it voted 5-2 on the measure. Council members Emma D. Tropiano and Ernest E. Toth cast the ''no'' votes.

Mayor William L. Heydt has said he will sign the bill into law.

Although approval of the ordinance gives the administration the go-ahead to hire a design engineer to write up the specifications for altering the water system to accommodate the addition of fluoride at the water treatment plant, officials cautioned that the law will take time to implement.

''It's a fairly complex matter,'' noted Daniel E. Koplish, Allentown's manager of water resources. ''It would have to be integrated into the system. Realistically, we're looking at probably a year-and-a-half to two years.''

Every Allentown mayor since John T. Gross in 1961 has had to deal with the fluoridation issue, and it has been the subject of vociferous debate in the city ever since the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a test program on 500 boys and girls at the Allentown Boys Club in 1949.

Still, many thought it a dead issue until the Allentown Health Board raised the issue again last year, and Councilmen Frank J. Concannon and David M. Howells Sr. agreed to sponsor a bill.

Howells said that he heard from many people on both sides of the issue in recent weeks. He challenged opponents to supply him with credible information to persuade him to vote ''no.''

''I received volumes,'' said Howells. ''But I have not received any information to change my opinion.''

Over calls by some residents, including Tropiano, to study the issue in more detail, Concannon said the issue had been given a thorough review.

''I have immersed myself in this for a year,'' said Concannon. ''I have become totally convinced of the merits of fluoride in our water.''

Still, opinions were divided.

City resident John Hunt said there were too many questions about the safety of fluoride.

''The fact is, there is no definitive proof,'' said Hunt.

But Susan Derringer, president of the citywide parent-teacher organization, countered, ''There is a mountain of evidence to prove that fluoride is effective.''

Council watched two videotapes and listened to more than three hours of pleas from residents on all sides of the issue, and much of it was dramatic.

Parkway Manor Elementary School student Ben Karabasz, whose mother and father are dentists, unrolled a scroll that stretched up one aisle of council chambers and down another that was printed with the drawing of 382 teeth -- one for every child who entered kindergarten this year in the Allentown School District with tooth decay.

Ida Hernandez of the local fluoridation advocacy group Citizens for Children's Dental Health handed council 2,500 petition signatures in support of passage.

City Health Director Barbara Stader asked the dentists and doctors in the crowded hall who support fluoridation to stand, and more than 20 men and women stood to face council.

Toth and Tropiano remained unconvinced.

Tropiano said she could not support fluoridation because she remained unconvinced of its safety and effectiveness, because she did not want to enrich the fluoride industry and because she believes parents should be responsible for the dental care of their offspring.

''I don't feel I'm responsible for raising those children,'' said Tropiano.

Toth said he could not support adding a chemical to the water supply that some people so strongly opposed.

''If I wanted to be a popular person tonight, I'd vote for it,'' Toth said.

Koplish said fluoridation equipment could cost up to $340,000 to install, and Stader said the city has commitments for up to $200,000 in funding from the Poole Trust and state Department of Health to cover some of the cost.

''I can celebrate now,'' she said after the vote, ''but until the valve gets turned 18 months from now, I have some work to do,'' she said.

The Allentown Board of Health has endorsed fluoridation of the city's water supply since 1952. Then, just 214 U.S. cities and towns had fluoridated water. Now, nearly half the U.S. population lives in communities with fluoridated water.

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Fluoride unknowns abound

Allentown officials don't know how much the extra water treatment will cost, or if they'll need one or three systems.


Of The Morning Call

The first thing Allentown Health Director Barbara Stader did after arriving at her office Thursday morning was send an e-mail to the city's water resources manager, Daniel E. Koplish.

''Now what?'' Stader's missive asked.

With City Council the night before taking the historic step of approving the addition of the cavity-fighter fluoride to the water supply, city officials have a lot more work to do besides ordering a tanker truck full of fluorosilicic acid.

''Now, the very, very serious work of implementation starts,'' Stader said. ''It's going to be a step-by-step process.''

Indeed, it will take 18 months to two years before pumps at three locations begin injecting the chemical into the water treatment process, Koplish said.

Before that can happen, the city must receive money, advertise for bids, hire an outside design engineer, buy equipment and modify the city's water treatment process.

The city has applied to the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust for about $167,000 and to the state Health Department for $30,000 toward the cost.

At this point, nobody has a firm idea about how expensive the project will be. The $340,000 start-up figure used by officials during recent public discussions was derived by the engineering firm of Camp Dresser & McKee Inc., which designed last year's $20 million upgrade of Allentown's 70-year-old water filtration plant.

But the engineers made that estimate by giving only a cursory review of the blueprints of that project and from their familiarity with the plant. Actual costs will not be known until experts draft design specifications.

For one thing, the city may not need one fluoridation system but three. One system would be installed at the water plant along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where water drawn from the Little Lehigh Creek and the Lehigh River is treated.

But Allentown's water is supplied by two other sources, Crystal Spring, near the filtration plant in Allentown, and Schantz Spring in Upper Macungie Township. The water is so pure from those sources, it needs only the addition of chlorine to meet federal regulations and bypasses the treatment that water from the creek and river must go through, Koplish said.

So to save money, water from the springs is chlorinated at the source, and Koplish said it might make sense to add fluoride at those same points.

Whether there is one system or three, water intake would be constantly monitored for natural fluoride levels. Those analyzers would signal the computer in the control room at the treatment plant, which would regulate how much fluoride is injected into the water at any one moment, Koplish said.

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that water be fluoridated at the concentration of 1 part per million to prevent tooth decay.

To picture that amount, Koplish said, imagine a row of gallon jugs stretching from Allentown to beyond Denver, Colo. That's how many jugs it would take to bottle Allentown's average daily output of 20 million gallons of water.

In that example, the fluoride needed to treat Allentown's water every day would fill just 20 jugs. Less might be needed in the warmer months when the fluoride level in nature tends to increase, Koplish said.

The fluoride would be delivered to Allentown as a liquid and would be pumped from the tank truck into an intake pipe at the treatment plant and stored in a 2,400 gallon tank, the largest that can be squeezed through the service doors.

The 10,000-gallon and 12,000-gallon tanks that house the other chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and orthophosphate were installed through the open roof last year while the plant was being built.

When the 1998 improvements were designed, space was left in the chemical room for adding fluoride tanks or other modifications. But because fluoride is so corrosive and hazardous in concentrated form, the storage tank will have to be walled off to contain leaks or spills.

Stader spoke informally with officials from both the Dorothy Rider Pool and the Health Department Thursday morning, informing them about council's vote. The city expects to hear the outcome of Allentown's grant applications in another month or so.

But the search for the remainder of the capital costs is under way, according to Mayor William L. Heydt.

''We're going to be looking at getting the rest of the money,'' said Heydt Thursday afternoon, as he waited for the city clerk to deliver the bill he planned to sign into law immediately.

Later this winter, council will need to amend the 1999 capital budget to include the fluoridation project, and council members are braced to hear more from opponents as the project moves along.

''I would certainly expect that kind of noise for a while,'' said Councilman Frank J. Concannon, the chief sponsor of the legislation.

Concannon said he hoped council's 5-2 vote was strong enough to discourage serious ongoing opposition.

Fluoridation of Allentown's water means that residents of South Whitehall and Salisbury townships and parts of Hanover Township, Lehigh County, will be getting fluoridated water, too, because they are customers of Allentown's water system. Whitehall Township also purchases Allentown water during periods of peak use, usually during the summer.

They will be joined by about 22 communities in Lehigh and Northampton counties that receive fluoridated water.

Bethlehem's water department serves 11 municipalities, including: Bethlehem, Freemansburg and the townships of Bethlehem, Lower Nazareth, Lower Saucon, East Allen and Allen in Northampton County, and Fountain Hill and the townships of Salisbury, Upper Saucon and Hanover in Lehigh County.

Catasauqua's water department serves only Catasauqua.

Easton's Water Bureau serves Easton but sells water to the Suburban Water Authority, which serves Forks, Palmer, Lower Nazareth, Williams and parts of eastern Bethlehem townships, as well as Wilson and Glendon.

Northampton Borough provides some water to North Whitehall Township, said Liesel Adam, spokeswoman for the Lehigh County Authority. Because Northampton fluoridates its water and the rest of the Lehigh County Authority does not, North Whitehall gets a mixture of fluoridated water from Northampton and plain well water, Adam said.

In 1989, the Lehigh County Authority conducted a cost analysis of fluoridation and found the cost would be significant, Adam said.

With 17 well stations, the Lehigh County Authority would have to install fluoridation equipment at each water source, in some cases building additions to house the equipment.

Constant monitoring is required when fluoridating water, and that would mean hiring additional employees. Besides, said Adam, the majority of the Lehigh County Authority's water goes to industrial customers, who don't need fluoridation. Some would even have to install equipment to defluoridate the water.

If the cost of adding fluoridation was absorbed by all Lehigh County Authority customers, rates would have risen 4 percent, Adam said. If the cost had been absorbed only by residential customers, rates would have risen 15-20 percent.

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PAUL CARPENTER (Allentown Morning Call Columnist)

Blind faith brings toxin to Allentown


It is the cherished and time-honored dictum of two-bit tyrannies all over the world: We are doing this for your own good.

That refrain rings incessantly from the cathedral towers of the well-placed. It is the sermon they preach to increase their own wealth or power at the expense of the ruck.

They know most people behave like sheep, even when they'd be better off behaving like cats; most are easily herded in whatever direction the well-placed want them to go. So it is to the everlasting credit of Allentown that the city held out as long as it did under relentless pressure.

For more than 40 years, Allentown stood up to demands from federal authorities allied with the profiteers of both the fluoridation industry and the dental establishment.

But, as reported Thursday, Allentown's sheep finally overcame the cats. City Council voted 5-2 to join the majority of other American communities that medicate residents by force.

Studies showing that fluoridation inhibits tooth decay in children were held as gospel; studies that show the opposite, or that indicate fluoridation can be harmful, were ridiculed.

Wednesday night's vote followed hours of ''citizen'' comment, dominated by a beautifully orchestrated parade of fluoridation supporters, most of whom wore pink buttons proclaiming their blind faith in the government's fluoridation crusade. Anti-fluoridation residents had no buttons.

Part of the process was the showing of two conflicting videotapes.

As if on cue, the pink-button crowd jeered the anti-fluoridation tape, featuring a California dentist, David Kennedy, who founded the Citizens for Safe Drinking Water group.

The fluoridation foes remained oddly polite through the pro-fluoridation tape, produced by the American Dental Association, even when the ADA made preposterous claims about the safety of a toxic waste product, and even when outright lies were told about the origins of the federal government's fluoridation crusade.

One resident speaker, Patricia Levvin of Bethlehem, who heads a social service agency in that city, praised the nobility of the dental establishment in supporting fluoridation.

''This is being advocated by those who have the most to lose from fluoridation, the dentists,'' Levin said. (After all, once fluoridation has cured all the cavities, dentists will go broke.)

On the other side, Rosemarie Doward of Allentown took the podium to say the ADA's own publications report that dentists' profits rise by 17 percent after areas are fluoridated.

That may be because of a side effect of fluoridation that is not in dispute. It causes fluorosis, or discoloration of teeth, which is irreversible. To fix one cavity, a dentist might get as little as $57; to cap unsightly teeth, a dentist gets from $500 to $700 per tooth.

I mention that in case you were wondering where the ADA is coming from in this debate.

When I last discussed fluoridation, on Jan. 10, I posed this question: Once the fluoridation fight is won by the control freaks, what's next?

My prediction -- that government authorities might then consider putting other medications in our water -- was met with some ridicule. But at Wednesday night's council meeting, it was suggested that vitamin C also be added. Vitamin C, you see, would be for our own good.

After hours of resident comment, it was City Council's turn. New Council President Dave Bausch was among those voting for the measure, but only after expressing reservations about Europe's experiences.

''Most of Western Europe has rejected fluoridation on the grounds that it is unsafe,'' Bausch said, noting that Sweden ended it after 11 years of scientific studies. He said Holland did likewise after 23 years of tests. The tests showed fluoride toxins cause increased bone fractures in adults and other ills, and may cause cancer.

Anyway, the American fluoridation industry, the ADA and their pals in government have added Allentown to their list of victories.

And I am firmly entrenched on the losing side. On this issue, I'd rather be there than with the winners.

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PAUL CARPENTER (Allentown Morning Call Columnist)

Once Again, the Kooks are Vanquished


Doctors recommend Camels by a margin of 2 to 1.

Not only that, but the federal government enthusiastically supports the tobacco industry with enormous subsidies and official studies proving that smoking is good for you and that critics of the tobacco industry are a bunch of kooks.

I didn't make that up. In my youth, as far as the American Medical Association and the government were concerned, there was something wrong with anyone who said smoking was harmful.

I was happily smoking up a storm at that time -- Camels, you betcha -- and some kook researchers came up with outrageous claims about a link with cancer and heart disease. I clearly remember the term that federal officials then used to describe those claims: "pseudo science."

The tune has changed, of course. Eventually, the kooks' claims about the virulence of smoking could not be ridiculed away. In the meantime, one wonders how many were killed by the poisons in tobacco smoke.

During Allentown's fluoridation debate, I again heard the term "pseudo science," this time to describe the claims of anti-fluoridation kooks.

As I noted Friday, the feds and the American Dental Association finally won their 40-year fight to get Allentown to join other righteous communities that add the industrial toxic waste known as fluorides to water.

Dentists recommend it by a margin of 2 to 1, you know. The ADA says it prevents cavities, and dentists will be glad to give up cavity-fixing profits out of the kindness of their hearts.

One of the things I mentioned in Friday's column was a claim by one of the anti-fluoridation people who spoke during the public portion of Wednesday's City Council meeting. (Following that portion, council approved fluoridation in a 5-2 vote.)

Rosemarie Doward said the ADA itself had admitted that dentists' profits increase when their area is fluoridated. (I said that may be because a dentist gets $57 for fixing a cavity while raking in up to $700 per tooth for fixing fluorosis, a discoloration problem caused by fluoridation.)

That's a kook's claim if ever there was one, but I later tracked down the ADA publication upon which Doward based her statement.

The nice people at Lehigh Valley Hospital keep back copies of the Journal of the American Dental Association, and there it was on page 364 of Volume 84, February 1972.

The net income of dentists in fluoridated areas and "fluoride-deficient" areas were compared, JADA said, and the income in fluoridated areas is 17 percent higher. That crass admission was embarrassing back in 1972, obviously, and the ADA never again released such data.

Also Friday, I mentioned a California dentist, David Kennedy, who founded an anti-fluoridation group, Citizens for Safe Drinking Water.

I telephoned Kennedy in San Diego and he didn't seem like a kook. His grandfather was a dentist, his father is a dentist and he is a dentist.

"I used to support fluoridation," he said. "When the science became clear that it was not a benefit, I stopped supporting it."

Kennedy said respected studies in America, Europe and elsewhere have revealed links to cancer, bone fractures and other problems, but are being ignored here. "From the very beginning, it (fluoridation) is a scam. It's a way to dispose of a hazardous waste (by) claiming a benefit," he said. "There is a profit motive for the ADA. The ADA is paid by companies that have a fluoridated product."

Kennedy also noted that the only country in Europe that still has widespread fluoridation is Ireland. Take a wild guess which European country now has the worst dental health.

While you're at it, consider that the fluoridation industry is pouring $50 million a year into campaigns to get California communities fluoridated. That's because only 15-1/2 percent of Californians are forced to drink fluoridated water, compared with half of the people across the nation.

Take another wild guess about how California's dental health, including cavities, compares with that of the nation as a whole.

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Last modified: 6 August 2001

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