- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

FROSTBURG, Md. (AP) In Western Maryland, a group of dentists has successfully pushed local officials in Cumberland and Frostburg to put fluoride in the water.
The group, known as the Fluoride Dream Team, has financed campaigns and helped put people on the city council in both towns.
But doubts about the practice have sustained a political battle and continue to stir emotions in Western Maryland.
"They push this stuff as [being] good for your teeth," said Bernard W. Miltenberger, a Frostburg florist who opposes putting fluoride in water. "But we see it differently. Our position is that fluoride is poison."
But that's not how LaVale dentist William Tompkins sees it.
While examining X-rays of a 4-year-old girl with 12 fresh fillings, he shakes his head.
"That's half her teeth," Dr. Tompkins said. "My friends in Washington tell me if they saw that many cavities in one mouth, they would be on the phone to social services. But out here, it's not all that unusual."
Water fluoridation once was debated across the country, but now it is widely accepted as a good tool to fight tooth decay.
But for decades, opponents of fluoridation have held a tight grip on what goes into the water supply in Western Maryland.
Frostburg dentist Jeffery Rhodes, 39, a new City Council member, said his election victory in June signaled the region's changing sentiments.
"Efforts to strike fear in people have finally worn down," Dr. Rhodes said.
Last month, the Frostburg water superintendent added fluoride to the water supply for the first time.
This month, Cumberland officials reiterated support for a similar plan, despite promises of a lawsuit and ballot initiative from protesters.
The anti-fluoride voice is led by an 80-year-old land surveyor who keeps stacks of files on the topic in her rural mountain home.
She has vowed not to back down.
"They've got people brainwashed," said M. Virginia Rosenbaum, the longtime Pure Water Committee leader.
Some contend fluoride causes brain and kidney damage, and others link it to cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
Public health officials say most of that research is marked by flawed logic.
"We have years of accumulated science showing the safety of this," said William R. Maas, who served for four years as the nation's chief dental officer under the U.S. surgeon general.
But fluoride opponents don't believe that.
Their latest move, with the aid of a Cumberland lawyer, is to plan a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the city's public health effort, calling it "mass medication."
But Dr. Tompkins said their efforts will only hurt children.
"It should come as no surprise that we have the worst rates of tooth decay in the state," he said.

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