MASSENA – Fluoride will remain in the village’s water supply for the foreseeable future.
The village Board of Trustees unanimously voted to keep fluoride in its water supply Tuesday night. The village will revisit the issue down the road as more studies and research are done about the long-term effects of fluoride, Trustee Patricia K. Wilson said.
The village is already taking its fluoride level down from 1 part per million to .8 ppm, but totally removing the fluoridation process requires board approval. Eliminating fluoridation would have saved the village around $18,000 a year.
After a lengthy public hearing at the meeting, which featured more speakers in favor of fluoridation than against it, board members decided to keep fluoride.
Dr. Carl R. Scruggs, a Massena dentist, said fluoride has been a part of Massena’s water supply since 1964.
“Its main benefit is that it reduces decay an estimated 30 to 50 percent in children and adolescents,” he said. “Overall it’s a public health benefit to make this available.”
Even though there are many different opinions about fluoride, the material is needed in public water for children without the means to obtain fluoride from other sources, Mr. Scruggs said. The village should follow state and federal recommendations to continue fluoridation, he said.
“Fluoridation is safe. It’s been recognized as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century,” he said.
Suzanne Hammill, a recently retired dental hygienist with the St. Lawrence County Health Department, said she traveled to schools in St. Lawrence County and checked children’s teeth.
“As we went from school district to school district, if we got into a school that was a fluoridated community, it was very obvious the difference in the teeth,” she said.
When her team visited schools in the village of Canton, a community that has since stopped fluoridation, she could see a greater level of decay in children’s teeth.
“When we saw the children’s teeth … we were absolutely shocked at the amount of decay,” Ms. Hammill said.
The retired dental hygienist said it was discovered Canton’s fluoridation system had not been working properly.
She also warned of the dangers of “junk science” in swaying opinions about fluoridation.
“I think junk science can play a role in provoking opposition to water fluoridation. And I think you get all kinds of people who make up their minds about something and are only going to listen to the negative side … It would be a disservice to the children to ever take it out.”
But Ellen Connett of Canton warned of the dangers of maintaining fluoridation by citing multiple health studies completed over the years.
Many children are actually overexposed to fluoride, she charged, which leads to harmful health effects. Some who were overexposed to fluoride had a lower IQ than those who had normal fluoride levels. Other studies done on animals overexposed to fluoride reported brain damage, she said.
She also suggested fluoride levels be examined on lifelong Massena residents by taking urine samples.
“It is an issue of concern. I hope your dentists will get behind testing of people in Massena,” she said.
But Trustee Francis J. Carvel said there is enough proof out there to keep fluoridating water. The studies about the harmful effects of fluoride did not outweigh the clear dental benefits the village has received in the last 47 years, he argued.
“To me it sounds like fluoridation is a good thing,” he said. “If I listened to everything, I would be afraid to go outside.”
Joseph S. Park is a dentist with the U.S. Public Health Service, stationed with the St. Regis Health Service at Akwesasne.
Akwesasne has one of the highest cavity rates in the eastern United States, Mr. Park said. There is likely a correlation between those rates and the fact that Akwesasne public water is not fluoridated, he said.
“Taking the fluoride out of the water would be a big mistake,” he said.
Margaret R. Demo described the huge difference in dental health between she and her husband and their children, a difference she attributed to the introduction of fluoride into Massena’s municipal water system. She was a long-time employee at the dental offices of the late Emmett Folgert, a strong proponent for fluoride during his long career in dentistry in Massena.
“My oldest son is 42, and he has never had a cavity. My other son is 41, and he’s had one cavity, and I have another son, 31, and he’s never had a cavity,” she said. “It’s not just luck, and it certainly was not from my genetics.”
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