COBLESKILL — Rejecting appeals from local dentists, doctors and county public health officials, the Village Board let stand its August decision to stop adding fluoride to drinking water, but voters may make the final decision.
After three of four village trustees said their research raised concerns about the need and possible side effects of the anti-cavity additive, Mayor Mike Sellers agreed with a suggestion from local dentist Dr. Gary Surman to put the question to a public vote.
“Put it on the ballot,” a disappointed Surman said as he walked out of Tuesday’s Village Board meeting.
“I agree with that,” Sellers said.
Sellers said he would research whether and when the question could be placed before voters.
Surman was among several dentists and a doctor who participated in a committee to discuss reinstating long-standing fluoridation of the water supply. The board voted in August to stop adding flouride to municipal water after a long campaign by village Water Superintendent Jeff Pangman, a longtime opponent of fluoridation.
No vote was taken Tuesday, but the consensus allowed the Aug 8, 2007, decision to stop adding fluoride to stand. The only Village Board member supporting a return to fluoridation was fluoridation committee member Mark Galasso. Galasso was not present Tuesday, but Sellers read a letter from him supporting fluoridation at the former rate of 1 part per million in water supplied to village users.
“Too much of a good thing can be harmful,” Galasso stated in his letter, but he was convinced “there are significant benefits” at the 1 ppm level.
Although acknowledging the apparent benefit in preventing tooth decay, Trustee Sandy MacKay, the other village official on the committee, said his research convinced him “it may have negative effects … [that] suggest the possibility of long-term deleterious effects.”
Trustee William D. Gilmore Jr. said the months of dispute has even divided his household. Gilmore said he found municipal fluoridation “troubling,” while his wife, a formal dental hygienist, supported it. Gilmore contended that recent concerns have led other communities to rethink water fluoridation. He also suggested more warnings should be made about pregnant women, infants or kidney disease sufferers using fluoridated water.
“Is there a need to ingest a chemical when brushing your teeth with [fluoridated] toothpaste will suffice?” said Trustee Carol McGuire. “I prefer the toothpaste.”
About 150 other municipal upstate systems, including New York City, add fluoride, according to the state Health Department. Many Capital Region communities, including Albany, Amsterdam and most Schoharie County public systems, do not. More than 12 million New Yorkers drink fluoridated water.
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NOTE FROM FAN: see also August 11, 2007: Cobleskill village in Schoharie County ends use of fluoride