COBLESKILL — It’s likely no minds were changed Tuesday as dentists, doctors and other health care professionals urged village officials to reconsider their decision to halt the fluoridation of village water.
“I think it better framed the issue,” commented Deputy Mayor Sandy MacKay after the informal committee meeting at Village Hall.
Dr. Gary Surman, a Cobleskill dentist who helped coordinate support for restoring fluoridation, which was discontinued last fall, doubted the approximately 70-minute session on a snowy evening accomplished much.
“They have a reticence to act in the public benefit, but they’re quick to act on their opinions,” Surman said afterward.
MacKay and village Trustee Mark Galasso said they were about torn between the acknowledged cavity-preventing dental benefits and claims of potential negative medical side effects such as brittle bones or hip fractures.
The group of three local dentists, two medical doctors, a nurse practitioner and Schoharie County Health Director Kathleen Farrell Strack argued that negative concerns were far outweighed by dental benefits.
The county Health Department cited Cobleskill last fall for not notifying the county before ending fluoridation of the public water supply. The village is fighting the technical violation, contending notice was not required.
“This [discussion] should have taken place before you guys took your vote,” said Dr. David Nicholas, a Cobleskill dentist.
Dr. Roy Korn, a Cobleskill Region Hospital physician and head of the Schoharie County Medical Society, said “four [U.S.] surgeon generals issued statements supporting fluoridation in community water.”
As a group, the medical professionals contended that peer-reviewed scientific research bolstered the public health benefits of fluoride.
Thumping a 4-inch stack of documents, articles and excerpts from studies, MacKay questioned whether the fluoride proponents had read the critical articles.
“How can you answer garbage,” said Surman.
“You’re saying if it’s here [in pro-fluoride research] it’s OK,” MacKay said, “but if it’s in this stack it doesn’t count?”
Much of the material the committee had been given to consider was assembled by Village Water Superintendent Jeff Pangman, a longtime opponent of fluoridation.
“I didn’t read a single thing from Jeff Pangman that resembled science,” Nicholas said.
Pangman was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
MacKay and Galasso both indicated they were uncomfortable making a medical decision for village residents to add fluoride to their drinking water.
With fluoride naturally occurring or added to numerous drinks, foods and toothpaste, and uncertainty about how much water individuals actually drink, Galasso argued that the actual consumption rate of fluoride could vary widely. Korn noted that some home water filters remove fluoride from the water.
“There’s no evidence of any human being in this county showing negative skeletal effects,” Strack said.
“At 1 part per million [fluoride in public water] it’s probably doing more good than harm,” Strack said. She said it was especially important for growing children’s teeth.
But MacKay said he was still concerned about claims of negative effects.
Also among the fluoridation advocates Tuesday was dentist Dr. Dennis Moren, physician Dr. Caroline Gomez-DiCesare and nurse practitioner Greg Rys.
The committee plans to meet again on March 25 after selecting several research studies for both sides to consider.