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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Don’t Drink the Water

April 16, 2010 - 6:00 AM | by: Douglas Kennedy

“Don’t drink the water,” that’s what Oliver Outerbridge is telling his neighbors.

It’s ironic because Outerbridge is a restaurant owner in Portland, Maine-a state which has some of the best tasting drinking water in the country.

“We are literally consuming a toxic substance,” Outbridge said, “we are medicating everyone.”

His issue is obviously not the taste, but what Portland adds to its municipal water – fluoride.

“[Fluoride] causes multiple diseases,” he said. “It’s been shown study after study to cause cancer as well as many other debilitating diseases.”

Outerbridge’s claims are echoed by anti-fluoride activists across the country, but are vehemently denied by most dentists and government scientists.

“There is absolutely no science to this,” said Edmond Hewlett, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “There is a preponderance of evidence on this,” Hewlett added. “Not only is [fluoride] safe, but it’s extremely effective in preventing tooth decay.”

What Hewlett can’t explain is why the anti-fluoride movement has recently gained such traction. In the last two years, dozens of communities in 10 states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, Vermont, Washington, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, and California,) have rejected water-fluoridation.

Outerbridge points to the warning on the back of any fluoridated tooth-paste. “It says right there if you swallow more than a pee-size, contact poison control. This stuff is poison.”

Hewlett, on the other hand, compares fluoride to other substances like Vitamin A and Vitamin D. “All of these things in high concentration can be toxic, “ he said. “But when they are controlled and monitored, not only are they not toxic, but they are safe, and can actually make us healthier.”

Fluoride has been added to drinking water (about one-part per-million) for over 65 years. Currently 70 percent of Americans drink fluoridated-water.

Hewlett points out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently honored fluoridated-water as one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Outerbridge remains unimpressed, calling fluoride “mass-medication.” “Fundamentally,” he said. “I have a problem adding any form of medication to a water supply. I feel medical decisions should remain between individuals and their doctors. What’s good for one person is not good for another.”

But apparently not all of Outerbridge’s neighbors agree. Last year he tried and failed to get a similar initiative on Maine’s state ballot. He also failed in a bid for a seat on Portland’s Water District Board on the issue of halting water-fluoridation.

However, Outerbridge believes the tide is turning in his favor, pointing to a spate of national stories on the anti-fluoride movement, “The more public press we get on this issue, the more likely it’s to become an issue for the average person.”

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