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(With Poll) Hartland Township to Close Tap on Extra Fluoride in Drinking Water

Board votes 5-2 Tuesday to become one of the few municipalities in Michigan to move away from the controversial additive after months of debate.

The Hartland Township Board of Trustees voted 5-2 Tuesday to immediately stop adding fluoride to its drinking water, joining an international movement that questions the additive's dental benefits and warns of possible health dangers that range from making bones brittle to an increased cancer risk.

Fluoridation supporters countered the evidence was junk science or taken out of context while noting mainstream medical groups, ranging from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the American Cancer Society, support the practice. Some also say the move will give the township a reputation as a place swayed by conspiracy theories.

The results of Tuesday's spirited debate — which one point became even a little theatrical — adds Hartland Township to a rare list where only two communities in the state (Mount Clemens and St. Ignace) in recent years, according to officials.

The change affects the township's tiny system that serves nearly 500 customers. The group consists of mostly homeowners, multiple businesses and three schools in the Hartland School District — the , and .

"We're making the decision for other people," said Trustee Glenn Harper while arguing to end fluoridation before the vote. "Our biggest complaint about Obamacare is that bureaucrats and politicians are going to be making medical decisions for us. Here's a perfect example of where we're doing that. We don't need to do that."

At that moment, Harper, who has spearheaded the effort to remove the substance, said anyone, including the poor, can afford to get fluoride on their own, first holding up a bottle of $2.29 two-month supply of mouthwash from he bought last week, then a $1 bottle purchased from the before the meeting. He said it doesn't make sense for the township to pay thousands of dollars a year to add it to the water.

"If somebody really, really wanted this stuff, here take it," he said placing the bottles in front of him with a thump.

But Trustee Joe Colaianne, who voted no, said the entire issue appears to be political grandstanding less than a year away from elections. The entire board is represented by Republicans.

"You're using props now and I don't appreciate it," he said. "You have a real hard time going up against the American Medical Association, American Dental Association."

Harper denied his motivation was political, adding information from the Centers for Disease and Control shows that drinking fluoridated water doesn't work and that it must be applied topically.

Afterward, Harper said the board made the right decision.

"(Board members) struggled for a long time," said Harper, who first learned about the issue from a chiropractor who also has a Ph.D. in nutrition during a conference. "Everybody did their own research. They didn't rely what I provided them. We relied upon reliable sources, like the CDC, like Harvard … all credible people."

International battle fought out in Hartland

The decision took several , a public hearing and while interest groups on both sides inundated board members with information — a process that Trustee Joe Petrucci, who also voted no, said he appreciated while comparing it to a "root canal." Despite it all, it was local information that swayed him most.

"I talked to a minimum of eight dentists and doctors," said Petrucci, who is the only board member on the system. "All of them suggested keeping fluoride in the system. Not one of them said take it out. I also contacted my neighbors. … They basically told me to leave it alone."

Both Petrucci and Colaianne favored spending money to improve the current system, especially because officials say the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to lower the current acceptable standards for fluoride from 4 parts per million to a range of 1.2 parts per million to 0.7 parts per million (0.7 parts per million is considered by the Department of Health and Human Services the optimal amount to promote dental health).

Currently, the township range has been as high as 2 parts per million.

To upgrade the system, it would have cost about $15,000 in equipment upfront and about $5,300 annually, which would have cost customers an additional $25 a year, according to Township Manager James Wickman.

But other board members questioned whether the the new equipment — which could regulate levels between 0.8 parts per million and 0.6 parts per million — was needed because the groundwater already averages about 0.4 parts per million naturally. They also noted it's not a government mandate and 40 percent of systems across the country exist without fluoride.

Clerk Larry Hopkins, who voted yes to end adding fluoride, said he was raised in the city of Detroit, which has fluoridated water, but had a bunch of cavities while his children never had fluoridated water at home but have had none.

"I don't see the benefit on a cavity standpoint from going to 0.4 to 0.6 and the money that's involved in doing that," said Hopkins, who was joined by Harper, Supervisor Bill Fountain, Treasurer Kathie Horning and Trustee Matt Germane in voting yes.

Last-minute lobbying

A trio of residents tried to sway the board before the vote during public comment.

Hartland resident Jordan Genso said while the anti-fluoridation movement is savvy, it's going to individual communities to make its case politically because it's lost scientifically. He urged the board not to buy into the hype.

"If Hartland passes this … it would reflect really poorly in our community that we allow such conspiracy theories to take hold," he said.

"They never actually address the evidence in favor of fluoride. There's a lot of evidence in favor of fluoride. You can't just ignore that unless you feel it's a conspiracy."

But others spoke out against fluoridation. Natalie Pryde, a 43-year-old environmental scientist from Deerfield Township, said she's concerned because she has two children in Hartland schools that have the water.

Pryde, who has a doctorate in naturopathy, said her reading of research shows dangers were known as early as the 1930s. She said Hartland Township wouldn't be alone in making the change, noting this year alone cities in the U.S. and internationally with the combined populations of 2.5 million people "have been freed from fluoridation."

"Fluoridation, it's unethical," she said. "It's forced medication through our water supply and we don't have a choice. … It's important that when my children and other children step up to that drinking fountain, it's safe."

Janet Pettit December 25, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Linda, the "YEARS of scientific research" are frauds! The book, "The Greatest Fraud," 1996, examining all the research studies at the time, was a critique by Australia's Univ. of Melbourne dental professor, Dr. Philip Sutton, who found no fluoride proponent's study that could pass scientific scrutiny (i.e., following the "scientific method"). All were "junk science." The World Health Organization compared tooth decay in about 20 developed countries (fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated) : no significant difference in decrease rates. Thirteen Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and medicine oppose fluoridation as do the Nobel Committee and the Pasteur Institute. Virtually all European countries have banned fluoridation. Dr. Hardy Limeback, DDS, PhD (biochemistry), former spokesperson and Canada's Dental Association fluoridation promoter for 12 years, looked into fluoridation's effects for himself and is now an outspoken opponent. Most dentists have not made the effort to research the literature for themselves and accept the ADA's promotion. Twenty-six studies now show brain damage (ADHD, etc) by fluorides. Dr. Albert Schatz, PhD, Nobel Prize winner and streptomycin developer stated in 1982: "Fluoride is the greatest and potentially the most dangerous medical hoax...of all time. It is the greatest fraud that has ever been perpetrated and it's been perpetrated on more people than any other fraud." It's not about children's teeth. Follow the money!
Bob December 25, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Janet, what do chimney scrubbers have to do with the issue? What Noble chemists? Your chemistry is taken out of context. Vague unsubstantiated references like these are exactly why your arguments fail.
Janet Pettit December 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Actually, Bob, fluoridation is not about stopping children's tooth decay, it's about getting rid of an extremely toxic by product of all mining companies. It's been estimated that it would cost these companies about $400,000,000/year to dispose of the fluoride. This is a powerful incentive to find cost-cutting methods The U.S. government got into the promotion of fluoridation when in the mid '40's the atomic bomb was being developed which needed lots of fluoride. The companies making it were damaging prize peach crops downwind in NJ and farmers were threatening to sue. Released classified papers about the bomb development, told of the government's concern over the farmers' suits and the suggestion to join the promotion of fluorides as good for people's teeth to avoid paying high reparations. Result: farmers each received only a couple hundred dollars for their losses and the public was convinced about the magic of fluoridation. As fluoride-producing plants continued spewing out hydrofluoric acid, the EPA stepped in and made them capture the fluoride in scrubbers. As more fluoridation's dangerous side effects are now being discovered, the government (CDC, FDA) as well as the mining companies are concerned about liability suits of parents of children whose teeth have been permanently damaged by fluorosis. To now admit the damaging effects opens up potential class action to rival the tobacco companies' fiasco. The scam continues.
Bob December 25, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Janet, I would really like to know the source of your story. Sounds like a Tom Clancy thriller. Representing that people are exposed to toxic waste is not only ridiculous but irresponsible and a perfect example of the tactics I object to. These acids, which are not toxic waste, that you talk about are used in microscopic quantities and furnish fluoride ions in the water, not like mixing , for example, sugar and water where the sugar remains intact. The PH of the water is closely controlled. Nobody is drinking Hydrofluorosilicic acid. Remember your high school chemistry? I would like to continue this back and forth but is clearly a waste of time. Our opinions come from different poles. Neither side is going to convince the other.
pascal December 28, 2011 at 10:10 AM
Fluoride, the active ingredient in many pesticides and rodenticides, is a powerful poison - more acutely poisonous than lead. Because of this, accidental over-ingestion of fluoride can cause serious toxic symptoms. Each year there are thousands of reports to Poison Control centers in the United States related to excessive ingestion of fluoride toothpastes, mouthrinses, and supplements. Water fluoridation accidents, resulting in excess levels of fluoride in water, have been one of the sources of acute fluoride poisoning. This is so scary you probably don't want to read the research... http://www.fluoridealert.org/fluoride-dangers/health/index.aspx

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