More than a dozen people shared their opinions during a Tuesday night public hearing on a proposed law that would fluoridate the City of Oneida water supply.
There were about 55 in attendance.
The hearing, the first agenda item of the night at the Oneida Common Council meeting, lasted just shy of two hours.
About two-thirds of the local residents who spoke opposed fluoridation. Among them was Elizabeth Carnevale of Oneida, who was a school nurse for the Oneida City School District for more than two decades. Carnevale said there are many causes of tooth decay – a condition that pro-fluoride individuals say fluoridating the water supply can help prevent – and that teaching children to regularly brush their teeth could go a long way toward better oral health.
“We cannot treat a symptom,” Carnevale said, “We have to get at the cause.”
Providing the state Department of Health views on fluoridation was Jay Kumar, of the state DOH’s Bureau of Dental Health. Kumar said fluoridation was one piece in the state’s strategy to improve overall dental health, and said studies show that better oral health can be a state Medicaid cost savings of $24 per child per year.
Kumar said that when the DOH creates public health programs, fluoridation is one weapon in their arsenal.
“There are many, many public health problems,” Kumar said, adding that dental decay is among them.
Referring to the anti-fluoridation group’s claims that residents in other countries are prone to health complications because of high fluoride levels, Kumar said, “our levels are safe and much lower.”
Kumar said the only known impact fluoridation has on a human body is dental fluorosis, or a discoloration of teeth due to higher exposure of fluoride.
Sherrill resident Katie Falkenmeyer read aloud a letter she previously sent to the Oneida Common Council, indicating her opposition to fluoridation of the water supply.
“This proposal is of grave concern to my husband and me,” her letter said. She went on to tell the council that she has “gone to great lengths to heal various auto-immune diseases” (including thyroid disease), and that “removing environmental stressors has been a huge part of my healing and the notion that fluoride may be potentially added to our water is terribly concerning.”
Later her letter asks Common Council to “strongly consider the health implications of the masses that have weakened or compromised immune systems, to which this would be very harmful.”
She said she has seen information that shows at least 75 percent of Americans live in areas with fluoridated water. To that notion, she said, “just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s healthy, or mean we should, too.”
Comments from others in opposition to fluoridation included sentiments that it should be the individual’s choice whether or not to consume. Others said fluoride is a toxin, medicine and a poison; also that fluoride can cause health complications such as brain damage.
Dr. Jennifer Meyers, a Hamilton pediatrician, said fluorosis is a cosmetic issue and noted that a good number of her young patients come in for pre-operative clearance for dental surgery.
Meyers said that some of her patients don’t have the choice to ask for fluoride, “but they do have a mouth full of cavities.”
Dr. Samuel Barr, an Oneida dentist and a longtime proponent of fluoridation, said “there has been a lot of talk” about fluoride being a toxin, but noted an April 8 downstate New York case where a mother was convicted of murder after giving her child too much salt.
Barr added that “everything can be toxic” if given in too high of a quantity.
Barr also said that additives such as folic acid and vitamin D are common in many foods for different health benefits, and that they are added without public’s permission.
“No one is getting hurt by these things,” Barr said, urging those in attendance to consider the impact on public health.
“This is a tough issue to address,” said Common Councilor Michael Bowe.
Dorothy Hotaling of Sherrill brought up a different point. She said the machinery needed to fluoridate the water supply could be costly.
Reached Wednesday, city Water Superintendent Arthur Smolinski said the city would need to buy fluoride saturation equipment which costs approximately $40,000. The equipment converts a dry powder substance to a liquid and then pumps it into the system at a dose of .07 parts per million. A new batch would be mixed every two days, he said.
After the initial set up cost, there would be expenses of about $30,000 per year for more fluoride.
Smolinski said water bills would rise about 1 percent. Giving an example, Smolinski said if a resident’s water bill is $100, fluoridating the water supply would raise the cost about $1.
Kumar said there are state grants available for implementing a fluoride treatment program using the municipal water supply.
Other communities in Madison County that have fluoridated water from the Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA) pipeline include Chittenango and Canastota, and portions of Sullivan, Lenox and Lincoln. In Oneida County, OCWA serves the village of Sylvan Beach and portions of Vienna and Verona.
A 2014 Water report for OCWA can be seen here: www.ocwa.org/water-quality/2014-consumer-confidence-report
The City of Oneida Water Department also provides water service to the Sherrill-Kenwood District, Durhamville Water District, Prospect Street Water District, the Villages of Wampsville, Oneida Castle, and Vernon, Stockbridge Water District, Taberg Water District, Town of Verona, and Skenandoah-Highbridge Water District, and residents along the transmission line. Those districts would also be impacted by fluoridation if passed by the Oneida Common Council.
For details about the current water supply, view the 2014 water supply report, here: www.oneidacity.com/wp-content/uploads/waterreport.pdf
According to the city Water Department, currently, the water supply is chlorinated to kill any pathogens that may be present. Further, in order to inhibit corrosion of distribution pipes, zinc orthophosphate is added to the water to provide a thin protective coating to pipes.
The proposed fluoridation law will be put to vote at a future Common Council meeting.
Council Takes Other Actions
Council approved the Fitch Street Water Main Extension Project. No one spoke at a public hearing on the proposed extension at the last council meeting. The project will extend the main to the intersection of West Elm Street, and bring water to an apartment complex now under construction in the neighborhood…
Published April 22, updated on April 23