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Both sides present ‘information we believe in’ in fluoridation debate

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at 9:24 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, August 27, 2013, at 9:38 a.m.

With two weeks to go to the vote on whether Wichita should fluoridate its water, the two sides of the issue proclaimed doubt and certainty about it in a forum Tuesday sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Wichita pediatrician Amy Seery said she trusted federal health agencies in their clear endorsement of fluoridated water and their declarations of its safety, while fluoride opponent and physician Charles Hinshaw said more study was needed on fluoride as they faced off at the downtown library. Two people from each side of the issue answered audience questions and gave opening and closing statements for their case during the forum.

“There is a cure that is so close,” Seery said in an emotional wrap-up in which she said she was on the “front line of an epidemic” of tooth decay. She said her arguments didn’t come from propaganda or from ads for water filtration or from some “warped personal gains I’ll never understand.” She said after the forum that she was referring to fluoridation opponents on the national level, not in Wichita.

Seery said during the forum that she was “humiliated” that people in Arkansas make fun of Wichitans’ teeth.

“As a Christian woman my heart breaks that people won’t even invest $1 a year to help someone who lives next door to them,” she said.

“I say no more to … listening to lies,” Seery said. She called opponents’ arguments “the madness of a few” in the face of the evidence.

In answer to questions about whether a person who is on thyroid medication or has chronic kidney disease should worry about fluoridated water, Hinshaw, a pathologist and laboratory director at the Riordan Clinic, said that fluoridated water is not used in dialysis, and he said that fluoride might be a cause of hypothyroidism.

But “where is the thyroid epidemic?” Seery said. The Centers for Disease Control “vehemently” says yes to fluoridated water, she said, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates it at each stage of life.

“Almost all” findings about fluoride need more study, Hinshaw said. Seery said that she was operating on “actual science, not possibilities.”

Hinshaw said that tooth decay was more prevalent in lower-income people because of a poorer diet and insufficient dental care. He said that national African-American leaders including Andrew Young and Gerald Durley were against fluoridation. Seery said that they didn’t have the health background of those who advocate fluoridation, including leading health institutions that have enormous resources to study it.

Dentist Lucynda Raben also spoke in favor of fluoridation and said that early experiences with having cavities filled can make a child “a dental cripple.” She said that people with a nice smile are perceived to be more intelligent, healthier and more likable.

Margo Martin, who holds a PhD in holistic nutrition and owns Natural of Course health-food store, also spoke against fluoridation, saying that if parents wanted their children to have it, they could give them a fluoride tablet and it would be less expensive.

“Do you have any idea how much fluoride you already consume?” Martin asked. “… How much water do you drink? This is a dosing issue.”

Seery said a person would go into a form of shock from drinking too much water before he’d ever consume too much fluoride from it.

Raben said that the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology did not recognize fluoride as an allergen; Hinshaw said the academy was 50 years behind the times. Martin said that once upon a time, the dangers of cigarettes, DDT, Agent Orange, asbestos and lead paint weren’t known.

“We both have information we believe in,” Martin said in her wrap-up.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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