Kendall Chamberlin believed he was following the science as he saw it.
And so, for the past three years or so, the town of Richmond, Vermont, has been getting less than half the state-recommended level of fluoride in its water.
The revelation of this spilled out last month when town officials admitted to town residents what was taking place.
Town Manager Josh Arneson said state officials told him in June that fluoride levels have been around 0.3 milligrams per liter for the past three years, according to Vermont Digger.
The Vermont Department of Health and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a level of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
Chamberlin admitted he made the decision unilaterally.
“The science is consistently showing less is better,” Chamberlin, the town water superintendent, said, according to Vermont Digger.
Residents vented their anger during a Sept. 19 water commission meeting, according to Seven Days.
“For a single person to unilaterally make the decision that this public health benefit might not be warranted is inappropriate,” retired Dr. Allen Knowles said. “I think it’s outrageous.”.
“I now have an 8-month-old granddaughter that I thought was getting fluoridated water as her permanent teeth are up in her gums developing, and she hasn’t been,” Knowles said.
Vermont Digger quoted Knowles as saying he had been “fairly gobsmacked” by the news.
“I’m really concerned that one individual is deciding not to fluoridate to recommended levels without informing any of us — just doing it behind the scenes,” Dr. Paul Parker said.
Chamberlin said he felt he was within his jurisdiction, according to Seven Days.
“As an operator, every time I make an operating decision, I don’t tell everybody about it,” he said.
Arneson said he believed Chamberlin “does come from a place of wanting to make sure the water is safe and it’s of high quality.”
Chamberlin said he could not recall precisely when he lowered the fluoride level, only linking it to reports in the media at the time of chemicals in dog food and baby formula imported from China.
He recalled reading a report of a U.S. senator questioning the wisdom of using fluoride from China in American water supplies.
“Now you’re adding a toxic chemical directly to the water supply from China? I’m sorry, fluoride is a poison,” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin also said he was doing as told by putting fluoride into the water. The water system serves about 1,000 customers.
Chamberlin said what he called “a couple” of water system users opposed fluoride and he wanted to be “ahead of the curve” on removing chemicals from the water.
“I think to err on the side of caution is not a bad position to be in,” Chamberlin said.
Robin Miller, oral health director for the Department of Health, said she spotted the lower level in April, and informed Chamberlin, who “seemed amenable” to change, she said, according to Seven Days. But nothing happened, leading to her reaching out to town officials in June.
“The people in Richmond and the health care providers that take care of the people in Richmond are all working under the assumption that the water is fluoridated because that was what the health department and the CDC are telling them, when, for all intents and purposes, it’s not,” she said.
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