Published in the April 12, 2017 edition


LYNNFIELD — Lynnfield Center Water District (LCWD) customers voted to put fluoride back into the water supply at the annual district meeting held in the Lynnfield Middle School cafeteria last week.

During last year’s annual meeting, LCWD ratepayers voted to remove fluoride from the water supply. The vote upset a number of local residents.

LCWD voters overwhelmingly approved Article 5 last week, which authorized LCWD District Superintendent Kenny Burnham and the Board of Water Commissioners to “reinstate the fluoridation of the district water supplies at the appropriate levels” established by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Article 5 passed by a 51-14 margin via ballot vote during the meeting. The warrant article stipulates the LCWD will not reconsider the fluoride issue for another five years. Voters also passed Article 6, which allocated $50,000 for expenses associated to reinstate fluoride into the water supply, on a voice vote.

The meeting’s attendees spoke overwhelmingly in support of reinstating fluoride in the district’s water. Residents were given three minutes to speak.

Erika Wilson, 130 Lowell St., helped lead the charge to reinstate fluoride back into the LCWD water supply. She said adding fluoride to the water supply at “optimum levels” will help prevent tooth decay.

“While opponents of water fluoridation cite conspiracy theories, there is no reputable or reliable science to back up their claims,” said Wilson.

Sue Tomich, 14 Willowby Way, said she reviewed articles that contained different points of view on the fluoridation of water issue. She said the articles overwhelmingly stated “adding fluoride to drinking water at 0.7 millimeters” did not have any negative health effects.

“The conclusion of all of these articles were that fluoride, at safe levels, should be in all public water supplies,” said Tomich.

Jessica Saccardo, 27 Heritage Ln., said she attended a recent Board of Health meeting to discuss the fluoride matter. She read a letter from Health Director Kristin Esposito McRae into the record outlining the board’s support for fluoridation.

“Fluoridation is a public health measure,” said Saccardo. “It benefits everyone. Everyone knows fluoride is added to virtually every public water supply. It’s not a question of choosing. It’s a question of making sure people receive the optimal amounts of fluoride in order to prevent tooth decay. This is about the public health of the entire community.”

Several residents who work as either dentists or in the dental profession spoke as well. A gentleman who works as an associate professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine addressed the “choice issue” raised by water fluoridation opponents.

“The people who make the choice are the people sitting in this room,” said the man. “We are making the choice for the people who are primarily affected by this decision, and those people are primarily children who don’t have the opportunity to make a decision for themselves. Fluoridation of the water system helps protect the children who can’t make these decisions, and it helps parents. For every dollar we spend on fluoridation, we save $32 because it prevents teeth decay. And that doesn’t even address the issue of parents missing time from work and children missing time from school, as well as the pain and the shame of missing teeth.”

Local dentist Dr. Rocco Iocco, 2 Stagecoach Ln., said he sees the positive impact fluoride makes every day.

“I have practiced for 30 years in Lynnfield,” said Dr. Iocco, who also serves on the Board of Health. “The scientific community overwhelmingly supports fluoride. I don’t like having the government tell me what to do, but the science says using fluoride is safe. The right thing to do is reintroduce fluoride back into the water.”

Schumacher Dental owner Dr. Rob Schumacher agreed.

“I have had the pleasure of living in the Lynnfield community for the past eight years,” said Dr. Schumacher. “I graduated from the University of Kentucky, where I was involved with areas that were fluoridated and non-fluoridated. We found at the University of Kentucky that non-fluoridated areas had a 400 percent increase in the number of decayed areas of teeth.”

Dr. Schumacher also expressed concern attendees at last year’s LCWD meeting voted to remove fluoride from the water without consulting the Department of Public Health first.

“I think it’s a major issue that individuals can make a decision that will affect this whole community without anybody really knowing about it,” said Dr. Schumacher.

Burnham said LCWD district voters made the decision to remove fluoride from the water, not the Board of Water Commissioners.

“A group of people submitted an article to the board,” said Burnham. “It was put in the warrant and it was posted legally just like it was tonight. People voted in favor of it and it was unanimous. The board is staying neutral on this.”

While most expressed their support for reintroducing fluoride into the water supply, attorney Jay Kimball, 618 Main St., said he opposed it.

“About 55 or 60 years ago, my father, who was a water district clerk, fought the introduction of fluoride and I am here to do the same thing,” he said. “I am not saying fluoride doesn’t help teeth. …I think the question is the dosage. I don’t think it’s a good idea to put it in your kids’ water supply.”

Jay Kimball’s son, Jason, echoed his father’s concerns.

“The question of whether putting fluoride back in the water in the district is not a question of whether fluoride is good or bad for people in a medical sense,” said Jason Kimball. “But it is in fact a legal question, which is whether people have the right to make their own medical decisions. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am pro-fluoride. But a yes vote not only takes away a person’s right to choose their own medical care, it also takes away a parent’s rights to make decisions for their children. Citizens who want fluoride in their water should go get their fluoride by other measures without forcing everyone to have it in their water.”

Smith Farm Trail resident Valerie Martins disagreed. “My parents and I lived in the former Soviet Union,” said Martins. “I think it’s embarrassing to say our government, with all of this education and all of this choice, is forcing people to do things that are inappropriate. As a dentist, I see plenty of parents and kids who don’t value dentistry and don’t care about dental health. I see a lot of fearful adults because they were put through torture because of dental decay. I urge all of you to not be scared away by propaganda.”