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Amherst to take another look at the fluoride issue

Health Director Julie Federman said Friday that board members will respond to the issues raised and she will provide information on the safety of fluoridation at a March 13 meeting.

Federman said such worries arise periodically, usually based in arguments that fluoridation causes dental fluorosis, a white speckling of the teeth when young children get too much fluoride, and that it can contribute to diseases of the thyroid and arthritis.

But Federman said she doubts these problems are occurring.

“When you look at the research and science, there is nothing out there we’ve been able to find to support the claims,” Federman said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientific literature and the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services all support water fluoridation.

In fact, the state Department of Public Health in 2011 put out a statement that it “continues to support the benefits of community water fluoridation for dental health.”

Amherst’s health board voted unanimously in 1984 to add fluoride to the water and later that same year a referendum on the practice passed Town Meeting. The fluoridation didn’t begin until April 1987.

Fluoridation remains somewhat rare in Hampshire County, though an estimated 4 million residents in the eastern part of the state do get fluoride in their water in more than 140 communities. Fluoridation is also common nationally for more than 275 million people.

The Department of Public Works handles purchasing the chemical and adding it to the water, setting a target of 1 part per million. The state has identified the acceptable range at 0.9 to 1.2 parts per million, Federman said, and Amherst falls within this range 99 percent of the time. She reviews monthly reports from the DPW to confirm the fluoride is added at the appropriate levels.

Some cities and towns have repealed fluoridation, but Federman said in the 19 years she has worked for the town, her office has received no complaints from residents about children suffering from dental fluorosis or any other illnesses skeptics attribute to fluoridation.

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