CANTON – The village Board of Trustees turned the taps off Monday on fluoridation of the water supply.
The 3-1 decision caps months of public discussion and private research on whether it was in the best interest of village residents to have fluoridated water, which is widely used to fight dental decay but suspected of various detrimental health effects.
The village has fluoridated its water for years, but stopped while work was being done on the water system.
“There’s just a lot of people who do not care to have fluoride in the water,” said Trustee David P. Curry, who voted against its use.
Mr. Curry was supported by trustees Sylvia M. Kingston and Stephen M. Putman. Charlotte C. Ramsay was the sole trustee voting in favor of fluoridation and she said she had mixed feelings.
If there were a way to get fluoride to all of the village’s children and teenagers to strengthen their teeth, it would make sense to eliminate it from the water, she said.
“I don’t see a way to do that,” she said.
The majority decision against fluoridation meant Mayor Robert N. Wells Jr. didn’t have to vote. He chose not to comment on what his vote would have been because he thought the issue should have been decided by referendum.
Mr. Wells gave an inkling of what his vote might have been when he said most of the residents who talked to him thought fluoridation should continue. He predicted the use of fluoride, which has come up for discussion four times, isn’t a dead issue.
“This will be back,” Mr. Wells said. “I hope we’ve made the right decision.”
The last time fluoride came up for a vote in 1998, Mr. Curry voted to continue its use.
Like him, there are many people in the village who have since changed their mind, he said.
“We ought to make it an option,” Mr. Curry said.
Mr. Putman said he spent much of December and January reading articles about fluoride, and determined that while it decreases cavities, it appears to accumulate in bones, particularly at higher doses than what the village has used.
Although studies aren’t conclusive, they raise concerns, particularly for menopausal women who drink fluoridated water over many years, he said.
Ms. Kingston said she heard the word “necessity” used a lot during public discussion of whether to continue fluoridating.
“I feel it is not a necessity to have it in our village water,” she said.
The village board should consider the support given fluoridation by federal and state health agencies, and not rely on the say-so of St. Lawrence Univesity chemistry professor Paul H. Connett, who has actively campaigned internationally against fluoride without backing up his claims about its dangers by facing peer review, said village resident Edmunnd G. Russell Jr.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” he said.
Mr. Russell urged the board to resume fluoridation and allow Mr. Connett to publish his findings and face scientific peer review.
“I’ve raised the questions. There must be answers to those questions,” Mr. Connett said “I’ve had one article published in the ‘Journal of Fluoride,’ which is peer reviewed.”
Public policy should be designed to protect the most vulnerable, he said, citing the results of a study published in the “Journal of Bone and Mineral Research,” that suggested hip fractures are higher in fluoridated communities.
“I’m a scientist. I’ve done what a scientist should do, which is to review the literature with an open mind. The evidence for benefits is very small,” Mr. Connett said. “All you say is trust the Center for Disease Control. The United States government is protecting a policy.”