Walsh said the company has no opinion about fluoride. “We take our directions from the towns and the state Department of Public Health,” he said.
In Duxbury, Capraro said he is fine with the family’s dentist treating his children with topical fluoride, but he considers having the chemical distributed in the public supply excessive and a breach of autonomy.
“We want to uphold the right to choose. People interested in using fluoride can go to the dentist and get pills, but right now the only way to avoid ingesting it is to buy bottled water,” he said. “The only way to remove the fluoride at home is with an expensive reverse-osmosis filter, so my family has to drink it because we cannot opt out.”
No longer pouring sodium fluoride into the water would not only restore free choice but also save Duxbury more than $20,000 a year, he said.
David Pellegrini, a dentist who has practiced in Duxbury for 25 years, said fluoridation remains a safe, effective, and, above all, inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay. “I think these groups are overreacting,” he said of the opponents.
People in relatively affluent Duxbury can afford fluoride pills, he said, but not all children have access to dentistry.
“Who is going to pay for the fluoride if children in a less-advantaged inner-city neighborhood need to get tablets? Either the taxpayer will pay for it, or the kids will not get it,” he said.
Pellegrini said it would be disappointing to see children denied the means to prevent tooth decay because a few individuals are worried about drinking water with fluoride in it. “Fluoridated water has never been shown to be harmful to anyone, but it has been proven time and again to dramatically improve the health of our children’s teeth,” he said.
More than 70 percent of Americans with public water receive it fluoridated, according to 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Twelve states require fluoride be added to public water, and 42 of the 50 largest cities in the United States have fluoridated water, according to the Massachusetts Dental Society.
In 15 states, fluoridated water is received by more than 90 percent of residents, with Kentucky topping the list.
On the other end of the spectrum, fluoride is added to the water systems for about 10 percent of residents in Hawaii.
Meg Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.