Senator Swears He Has Nothing Against Teeth
In January, contributing columnist Susan Bigelow looked at a number of bills on tap for this session, including one from Sen. Joe Markley who wants to scrap mandatory fluoride in the water supply. She asked “What does he have against teeth?” Well, CTNewsJunkie caught up with Markley last week. It turns out his answer is twofold.
First, Markley doesn’t have anything against teeth. His problem is more rooted in an opposition to municipal mandates than it is anything rooted in gum tissue. He said he had been talking to businesses and municipalities about various state requirements.
Soon he started thinking about the “fluoride thing,” he said. “Why is the state mandating it on municipalities? Why not let municipalities decide for themselves?”
Markley said that even if fluoride is a positive thing, towns should be able to choose whether to put fluoride in their water supply.
He said his proposal to make fluoride optional didn’t go over so well in some camps.
“I immediately got pushback from some of my dentist friends, of which there are many,” he said. “They said ‘What are you thinking?’”
While he points out that he is not a scientist, Markley said he started researching the issue and that led him to his second reason for raising the bill: some people question how effective fluoride is and whether it can be linked to health problems.
He said that many European countries began adding fluoride to their water supply around the same time the U.S. did so, but some of those countries have since moved away from it.
Markley said his dentist friends have accused him of reading “junk science” but he cites studies from John Hopkins University and Harvard conducted over the last few decades that found links between fluoride and hip fractures in the elderly in some cases, or an adverse effect on the neurodevelopment of children in others.
“To just dump it in without any regard to who or what types of people — it might not be wise,” he said.
Carolyn Malon, president of the Connecticut State Dental Association, said she was one of the dentists who reached out to Markley to oppose potentially taking fluoride out of drinking water.
“If you take fluoride out, you’re going to have greater incidents of tooth decay and it is predominantly going to hit low-income kids,” she said.
Although she hadn’t seen the specific studies Markley has cited, Malon said you can find data on almost any substance suggesting it’s harmful in certain doses. But unless you’re eating toothpaste and drinking fluoride rinse from the bottle, you’re unlikely to have a problem, she said.
Malon said she believed Markley was more concerned with the philosophy of reducing mandates than he was with the health impacts of fluoridated water.
“However, I do believe the public health benefits of fluoride in the water trumps his mandate philosophy,” she said.
Markley said wanted to start a dialogue but he didn’t have much hope for the bill this year.
“I’m glad I started the conversation, though I don’t think it’s going to change in this legislative session,” he conceded.