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Allentown's Pro-Fluoridation Editorials

The Morning Call


To the Editor:

It is hard to believe that, after decades of positive experience in communities all over America, Allentown is still debating whether or not to put fluoride in its water. I had the privilege of serving on Bethlehem's City Council in 1971 when we approved fluoride.

We did our studies on the merits of fluoride;

We invited expert opinions from the medical and dental field and other science professionals;

We had our debates;

We had a few supporters, but several opponents, most it seemed from Allentown;

We had interesting hearings.

The late Dr. Francis Trembley of Lehigh University, a fluoride advocate, held up a foot-long shark's tooth hundreds of years old, with a high density of natural fluoride and no cavities.

Dr. Louis Batt, a prominent local dentist, sat in council chambers sipping a glass of cloudy water, which had a fluoride content of at least 10 times the amount that the city would put in the water. He was demonstrating just how harmless it would be to our bodies.

I voted on hundreds of matters while serving on Bethlehem City Council, but I can't think of a more meaningful vote that had such a direct benefit for the children of our community.

Today, the study prepared for Allentown Council clearly shows the positive effect that fluoride has had on the teeth of Bethlehem's citizens as compared to those in Allentown.

Fluoride was a controversial subject 27 years ago in Bethlehem, as it still is in Allentown today. However, we voted 7-0 for it, and we rarely heard a negative voice following our vote ... just thanks from many parents for doing the right thing for their children and future citizens of Bethlehem.

Walter J. Dealtrey

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The Morning Call

Friday, January 22, 1999

Parents, doctors, dentists and everyone who is concerned about public health were gratified by Allentown City Council's vote Wednesday to finally approve the fluoridation of city water supplies. It took more than 40 years to overcome opposition to fluoridation, but we say, better late than not at all.

The contentious issue first surfaced in the city when the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a test program on 500 boys and girls at the Allentown Boys Club in 1949. A mountain of evidence shows fluoridation is the single most effective way to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health for life. But a fiercely opposed, vociferous minority of residents held sway.

Council last voted it down in 1993. But fluoridation emerged again last year when the Allentown Health Bureau identified it as a primary goal in its five-year dental health plan. City Council then introduced an ordinance in October to add fluoride to the water supply serving 130,000 people.

The vote Wednesday night was 5-2, and Mayor William L. Heydt is expected to sign the bill into law. Council members Emma D. Tropiano and Ernest E. Toth cast the only dissenting ballots. Mrs. Tropiano's explanation was particularly disappointing. She said one of the reasons she does not support fluoridation is her belief that parents should be responsible for the dental care of their offspring. "I don't feel I'm responsible for raising those children," she said.

No, Mrs. Tropiano is not responsible for "raising" Allentown's children. But elected officials have a responsibility to look out for the general health and well-being of all a community's residents -- especially its youngest and most vulnerable ones.

The Allentown Board of Health first endorsed fluoridation in 1952. It was a long time in coming, but now the city can join about 10,000 communities nationwide that fluoridate their water. Five members of City Council (Frank K. Concannon, David M. Howells Sr., David K. Bausch, Todd A. Stephens and Robert E. Smith Jr.) deserve praise for weighing the solid evidence of fluoridation's benefits against the pseudo-scientific claims against it -- and then doing the right thing.

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by BILL WHITE, The Morning Call
Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Prior commitments kept me from arriving at Allentown City Hall until almost 10:20 last Wednesday night, but I was confident they'd still be going strong.

Not only was City Council scheduled to decide again whether Allentown's water should be fluoridated -- the city's version of the Hundred Years War -- but it also was voting on the controversial rental home inspection bill and choosing between three contenders to serve as council president for the next year.

It was an agenda for the ages.

City Council chambers still were full of fluoridation supporters and opponents, and about a dozen people were lined up along the wall, waiting to speak at the podium. The line kept replenishing itself, despite new Council President David Bausch's request that people whose points already had been made consider foregoing their turns. Fat chance.

Many of these people have been coming to the same place to say the same things for decades. The technology has changed -- videotapes were shown pro and con, and there were numerous references to research garnered from the Internet -- but the arguments haven't. If you look hard enough around the city, you probably could find cave drawings showing three-headed mastodons drinking fluoridated water.

Anytime you get 45 people talking for three hours, you're going to have some dumb things said and done on both sides. One anti-fluoridationist announced that she rarely brushes her teeth, the kind of information I'd probably be inclined to keep to myself.

In the midst of public comment, city Health Director Barbara Stader tried to butt in and take the podium for a pro-fluoridation demonstration, earning a stern rebuke from Bausch.

Another opponent suggested that dentists are plotting to increase their profits, trading the insufficiently lucrative cavity-drilling required by non-fluoridated water for the pricier dental procedures that will be needed when fluoride begins wreaking more serious havoc with people's mouths.

The diabolical fiends!!!!

I thought the stupidest suggestion came from city controller and aspiring future councilman Louis Hershman, who argued that two weeks wasn't enough time for council to study this issue, as though the issue had just surfaced the other day instead of over the course of 40 years.

He proposed the appointment of a "Fluoridation Study Commission," better entitled a "Fluoridation Stalling Commission."

More studies are the last thing they need at this point. Fluoridation has been studied to death, and reputable researchers keep coming to the same conclusion -- it protects your teeth, it doesn't make your bones brittle, it doesn't cause cancer, it doesn't cause heart disease or make your kidneys fail. Experts from several fields of medicine showed up Wednesday night to answer all these questions.

If you think the doctors are all lying or misinformed, that's certainly your prerogative. But another study won't change anyone's mind.

Councilwoman Emma Tropiano was in top form, malapropically ruminating about "pott-able" water and her reasons for opposing fluoridation. At 11:40 p.m., she noted, "I'm not going to be talking much more because the night is young."

Her imagery is amazing. Complaining that the welfare of the city's kids is their parents' problem, not council's, she said, ""When someone comes in here and they want to make a point, we always have the children to throw in front of the truck. They know that always gets us here."

Council voted 5-2 to stop the truck, with Tropiano and a subdued Ernie Toth voting no.

You dentists probably shouldn't start buying Rolls-Royces and Lear jets just yet. Even without legal delays, the process of tooling up for the change is expected to take at least 18 months.

Then again, in a Hundred Years War, another 1-1/2 is just a drop in the bucket. As Emma would say, the night is young.

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by PETERSON, Morning Call Columnist

Thursday, January 28, 1999

On Jan. 20, Allentown City Council did a difficult and brave thing: It said yes to fluoridating the city's water supply.

It was brave because the five council members who voted yes will undoubtedly get lots of flak for it; difficult because council was deluged with information and dueling studies from both sides of the issue.

I'm late arriving to this particular party because it took me a while to sift through conflicting claims and be satisfied with proponents' answers to points made by fluoridation critics.

Because Allentown has at least 18 months of legwork -- getting grants, designing the system, buying the equipment -- before it can start fluoridating the water, I thought I'd add my voice to those telling the city to stand fast against what will most assuredly be continuing opposition.

Fluoridation foes claim it causes a variety of ills and complain that putting fluoride in water is a form of forced medication.

To accept that fluoridation of water supplies is dangerous to the population, you'd have to believe one of two things: Either virtually all the leading national health and scientific organizations that favor it are perpetrating a conspiracy so evil as to have a Charles Manson-like quality, or their doctors and scientists are dumber than cheese. Either way, it's just too big a leap for me.

That's not to say that the mainstream scientific and medical communities are infallible. But fluoridation isn't some new experimental treatment: For 50 years scientists here and abroad have released peer-reviewed study after study citing its safety and effectiveness in fighting tooth decay. About 144 million Americans -- some 61 percent of those on public water --have cavity-fighting levels of fluoride in their water.

If credible evidence were found
for claims that water fluoridation causes cancer, kidney disease or other serious ills, surely one of the dozens of reputable organizations that back it -- Centers for Disease Control, National Cancer Institute, National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Dental Association, among others -- would sound the alarm. Otherwise, that's one heck of a crowded conspiracy.

I asked Dr. Eugene McGuire, a pediatric dentist associated with Sacred Heart Hospital since 1978, about the possibility that those organizations were wrong about the safety and benefits of fluoridation.

"If it were just a group of dentists, could they be wrong? Yeah. If they were just a group of physicians, could they be wrong? Yeah," McGuire said. The endorsement that means the most to him, McGuire said, is that of the World Health Organization.

"The brightest people on the planet, independently of each other ... did studies and came up with the same conclusions," that fluoridation is safe and effective, McGuire said.

He pointed to Easton and Bethlehem, which have had fluoridated water for decades.

"If there were a problem, we'd have seen it in the areas that were fluoridated long ago," McGuire said.

But the issue hits closer to home than that for McGuire. He said his only child -- now 15 --has taken fluoride pills all his life.

"Can you imagine that you would use something even remotely dangerous on your only child?" McGuire said.

Fluoridation foes argue that parents, like McGuire, who want their children to have fluoride can give them supplements and the city can distribute them free to poor families.

In theory that's a good idea, but fluoride works best when it's delivered in small amounts over a long period, as with fluoridation, rather than a larger dose once a day, McGuire and others say.

"The fact is that the people who are getting too much fluoride are getting it from two sources -- children under the age of 6 swallowing toothpaste and fluoride supplements," said Dr. Shirley Nylund, a dentist on staff at Lehigh Valley Hospital. "Once you put it in the water then you stop getting supplements."

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The Morning Call

Friday, January 29, 1999

To the Editor:

Now that Paul Carpenter has given everyone his enlightened views on the evils of water fluoridation, he will undoubtedly have to do a companion piece on the dangers of chlorination. Since chlorine is right below fluoride on the periodic chart of the elements, it is only reasonable to think he would be against that, also.

I think The Morning Call should print Carpenter's column on the comics page, at least then everyone would know not to take him seriously.


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Last modified: 6 August 2001

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