Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Unadulterated drinking water – a necessity for civilized people

(This was an op-ed that appeared in the Rutland Herald Wednesday, February 10. 
I'll leave it as it is, though I would make it much stronger if I were to write it today)


When I was a child growing up in Michigan, I visited Genesee County every summer to stay with relatives at their farms in the area. I also visited my Aunt Nina in the city of Flint where we were prohibited from taking the teensiest sip of tap water. This was in the 1950s. Old iron pipes, corrosion and high lead levels evidently have only grown worse as Flint tragically transitioned from a healthy metropolis into an impoverished ghetto whose water is shaving children’s intelligence down to a nub.  The drinking water was a sign even then, though, that Flint was not husbanding its citizens well, respecting their right to clean, unadulterated water. That right must supersede money and industry in a sustainable world.

As a child, however, I had no shortage of good water. We had perfect, icy cold, good tasting well water at home and on the farms, and of course Aunt Nine would bring a gallon or so home with her every day from Pa’s farm, to cook with and brush teeth, and drink in a pinch.

Keeping filthy Flint water in mind, let’s switch back to present-day Rutland, whose water has never had a very good reputation either. When we lived there in the ‘70s, we were told Rutland water was bad, and it tasted bad. Again, old pipes – ancient, even – iron and corrosion. Don’t know if we even knew what the lead levels were then. As I remember, there wasn’t much we could do about it. Bottled water was not a thing yet and we didn’t know the area well enough, and our brains hadn’t evolved far enough to think it was so important as to haul water from a spring. Besides, there was chlorine added to it to kill all the bad things and, if we had but thought, good things, too. But chlorine was necessary, so we accepted it.

Chlorine is one of those devilish blessings we’ve had to contend with in town water supplies ever since it was found effective in the early 1900s for combating the waste that humans create when they gather in groups. In that, we apparently resemble beavers, although beaver poop does not probably sicken beavers, only humans. Human waste sickens all of nature, not least because we ingest so many chemicals. Like chlorine. And fluoride.

We add chlorine to the water because if we didn’t it would make us sick. We would not be able to drink the water and we would die. Simple as that. Water is perhaps the most important nourishment of human life. As I said before, the right to clean, unadulterated water should stand far above industry and politics.

DPW workers in our cities and towns and villages have the tremendous responsibility to add the right amount of chlorine to our water – enough to kill the bad things; little enough not to kill us. But a visit to Rutland’s Water Filtration Plant web page will tell you that they have the responsibility for adding more chemicals than chlorine to the water supply. Under the heading the “Slow Sand Water Filtration Facility” is this information, “At the facility, we filter the water then add the following chemicals:  Chlorine for disinfection, Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (Flouride) for dental care, and Zinc Orthophosphate for corrosion control.”

Dental care! What an idea! Adding chemicals to our water for our choppers! In that vein why not add anti-depressants, anti-biotics, anti-psychotics, or Shalimar, for that matter. Might as well smell good while we’re all being medicated whether we like it or not. Or wait! Tranquilizers, to quiet us all down so we can’t object to things like fluoride being put in our water. S/he who controls the water controls the masses, to paraphrase... some wise person.

I don’t live in Rutland anymore. Sometimes the smell of chlorine in my village water is overpowering and at those times I take a big jug up to the Church Street spring and bring home a few gallons. We voted down fluoridation of our water many years ago. I don’t think our teeth are any worse than Rutland’s, and, most importantly we are not medicating people with fluoride every time they take a drink of water.
We could take a side trip and ask, What is this fluoride stuff anyway? An article in The Lancet Neurology newsletter dated 2/14, Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity introduces its findings by saying, “Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence.”

Further on, the authors, Grandjean and Landrigen, both MDs, report that “A meta-analysis of 27 cross-sectional studies of children exposed to fluoride in drinking water, mainly from China, suggests an average IQ decrement of about seven points in children exposed to raised fluoride concentrations. Confounding from other substances seemed unlikely in most of these studies.”

That’s 7 points shaved off your child’s intelligence by something put into drinking water. On average.
Elsewhere in the same article the authors point out that “...the presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem.” I would take that little word “new” out of the mix and make this retroactive. Fluoride is not new but it has not been proved safe, especially when it is put in our water.

Lancet, as you probably know, is a highly respected publication.

My children and their families do live in Rutland. I want their water to be as pristine as possible. Whether fluoride is effective in preventing tooth decay or not is beside the point – it has no place in our drinking water.
My daughter, Isobel, who discussed this article with me and did some research for it, said, “This is about a population’s right to choose not to have dental treatments in their drinking water.” As a nurse studying for her master’s degree, she is well aware of the fact that medical and dental treatments must be performed only by choice. “Consent is the key here,” she told me. “I’ll take my water free of everything it can be free of, and I’ll get my dental treatments at my own discretion!”


Flint serves as an extreme example of disrespecting people’s need of clean drinking water. We simply cannot afford to take the tiniest step down that road. We must not adulterate our water any more than absolutely need be. Clean it up, please. Let’s begin by getting the fluoride out!

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