To the Editor:
Marnie Eisenstadt wrote a well-researched article Dec. 9: ”Why Pulaski Pulled the Plug on Fluoride.” Pulaski Mayor Karl Hax said the fluoride was corroding the pipes. Michael Sacco, chairman of the Pulaski Water Board and others are professed disciples of Paul Connett, a retired chemistry professor from St. Lawrence University and head of the Fluoride Action Network (or FAN).
In Pulaski, water fluoridation was discontinued hastily in November in a process that lacked transparency. It was initiated by an appointed water board and then rubber-stamped by the elected village board. The officials were resistant to any influence by public health officials. This is strikingly similar to the current process being followed in Seneca County and also was evident two years ago in Poughkeepsie.
Unlike the water board and the Pulaski village board, Eisenstadt sought expert scientific advice on the subject. She contacted Jay Kumar, acting head of the New York State Bureau of Dental Health in Albany. Dr. Kumar has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on this subject. He was dismayed by the decision in Pulaski, which was made contrary to the advice of the Oswego County Health Department.
A good New Year’s resolution for Chairman Sacco and Mayor Hax would be to support alternative dental decay prevention programs. They have a moral obligation to their community. Such alternative programs are more expensive, but still not as effective as municipal water fluoridation. For example, the children of Pulaski up to the age of 15 now will need fluoride supplements – with an annual projected cost that is more than the $10,000 spent on water fluoridation for the village. The fluoride supplements only cover a small fraction of the population and are less effective. Non-fluoridated counties pay, on average, $24 more per Medicaid patient for dental care annually than fluoridated counties.
After Eisenstadt’s article was published, The Post-Standard hosted two, one-hour question-and-answer sessions on the subject. On Dec. 13, Cynthia Morrow, commissioner of the Onondaga County Health Department, showed her support for water fluoridation. This was followed by a similar Q&A period on Dec. 18 by Paul Connett. His lead-in was a virtual billboard for FAN.
A New Year’s resolution for Connett would be to finally support his stated alternatives to water fluoridation, i.e. better oral hygiene and nutrition. During his online Q&A session, I asked Connett, ”Can you show evidence that you and your followers spend any time or money promoting better oral hygiene and nutrition for school children or programs for the financially challenged or the elderly?” These are the vulnerable people who disproportionately benefit from the protection of water fluoridation against dental decay.
Connett’s short answer was ”no.” The excuse was lack of resources, yet the parent organization for FAN in their 2010 federal tax form listed about $250,000 net income. The parent organization says that they want to ”offer alternative solutions.” There is middle ground here. Why not devote half of those reserves ($125,000) to promote better oral hygiene and nutrition for the most vulnerable? FAN reserves are continually being replenished from regular solicitations in their numerous electronic newsletters.
We all know what Connett and his followers are against. Now it’s time for them to put their money where their mouths are.
Thomas Curran, DDS, is a retired oral maxillofacial surgeon from Chemung County and a member of the Chemung County Board of Health. He is currently a member of the New York State Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Advisory Board and New York State Oral Health Coalition. He served on the committee to write the New York State Oral Health Plan in 2005 and 2012.