It was in Poughkeepsie’s drinking water for years.
Several years ago it was taken out. Last June, it returned.
Last month it was removed again.
So are some city leaders who want to know why fluoride has again been removed from the water system, which serves about 80,000 residents in four Dutchess County communities. City officials hope to learn more Tuesday when the Common Council plans to discuss the fluoride issue with Poughkeepsie Joint Water Board Chairman Frank Mora.
The water board last month reversed its June decision to bring back fluoride and voted to remove it from drinking water consumed by residents in the city and town of Poughkeepsie, as well as others in Hyde Park and Wappingers Falls.
City leaders want to know why fluosilicic acid, a chemical used in the fluoridation process, is again absent from the water system.
“Taking the fluoride out is going to have a devastating effect on the people of the City of Poughkeepsie,” said Councilwoman Gwen Johnson, D-7th Ward.
Johnson said the city has many poor and elderly residents who may not be able to afford proper dental care. She said having fluoride in the water at least provided residents some protection from dental problems.
The use of fluoride in drinking water has sparked a nationwide debate on the practice and there are scientific studies both for and against its use.
The Poughkeepsie Joint Water Board has members from the city and town. The board voted 4-2 in June to reintroduce fluoride after a two-year absence. The practice of adding it was halted in 2005 because of equipment and employee safety problems at the Poughkeepsie treatment facility.
Those problems were later corrected and the water board voted to reintroduce fluoride last June.
But the board reversed course last month, this time voting unanimously to remove fluoride.
Town of Poughkeepsie Councilman Todd Tancredi, R-6th Ward, serves on the water board. He voted last year to reintroduce fluoride after its two-year hiatus.
Tancredi said he changed his vote last month because board members have not received requested information from state health officials about fluoride’s possible negative effects.
“The concerns are there and they seemed like legitimate concerns,” Tancredi said of studies, which have found fluoride in water may cause thyroid impairment.
Other studies have found no correlation between the amount of fluoride in tooth enamel and decreased tooth decay.
Still other studies have found fluoridation helps promote dental health.
With negative studies out there, Tancredi said he would rather err on the side of caution. So he voted last month to have fluoride removed from the water system.
Mora, a former city council chairman who voted against fluoride’s return last year, did not return a call seeking comment.
Tancredi would not rule out yet another vote by the board at some point to return fluoride to the system.
But he said that isn’t likely to occur unless members have their concerns addressed.
Tancredi said he realizes the issue is a divisive one, and the many studies with divergent findings make it difficult to determine which is the best course of action.
“People on both sides of the issue are very passionate about it,” Tancredi said.