After 54 years of drinking water with fluoride added, Cobleskill village residents who believe in its dental benefits will now have to rely on toothpaste and other products

“From a personal standpoint, I’m very happy,” village Water Superintendent Jeff Pangman said Friday.

After several years of his pushing village officials to reconsider fluoridation, the Cobleskill Village Board voted this week to end use of the additive.

“I turned the pump off Wednesday,” Pangman said.

Even though he’s been working at the water department for 25 years and running it since 1994, Pangman, 52, said he quit drinking the village water several years ago because he believed fluoride was contributing to knee problems that prevented him from jogging.

Now he plans to quit buying bottled water.

“We have a great product here,” Pangman said of the village reservoir supply, “and we should be drinking it.”

The village water system supplies the 4,533 village residents through 1,075 connections, he said.

Debate over the benefits or risks of adding fluoride to water has bubbled up for decades.

Google the word and more than a million Web links pop up, many citing fears that excess fluoride poses risks like cancer, bone problems and other health issues.

On Friday, the Albany-based Citizens Environmental Coalition issued a statement supporting a plea by 600 health and science professionals urging Congress to stop water fluoridation until congressional hearings are conducted.

The coalition said Fluoride Action Network Director Paul Connett is planning an online petition drive based on what the coalition called “new scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks.”

Data from Connett, a St. Lawrence University chemist, is part of what helped persuade Cobleskill officials to stop fluoridation.

“Jeff (Pangman’s) been on a one-man crusade to try and get this removed from the water supply for at least 10 years,” said Village Clerk-Treasurer Sheila Hay-Gillespie. She said she also did some checking into online sources and state regulations.

“What came through to me loud and clear, and from legitimate sources, was that to the extent that fluoride is good from a dental perspective, it really should be applied topically,” such as with toothpaste, said Deputy Mayor Sandy MacKay, who sponsored Tuesday’s Village Board action.

The state Health Department, as well as the American Dental Association, continue to endorse the use of fluoride in water supplies, but Public Health Law leaves the decision up to local water supply owners.

“The Health Department has evaluated the safety and benefits of fluoridation, and there is documented information that has shown that there has been a significant reduction in tooth decay rates in those communities that do fluoridate water,” said spokesman Claire Pospisil.

“Based on all of that we encourage the fluoridation of public water supplies where the natural fluoride level is deficient, as an effective public health measure that benefits the whole community, Pospisil said Friday.

While more than 12 million people in the state, including New York City, and about 150 other municipal upstate systems add fluoride, according to the state Health Department, many Capital Region communities, including Albany, Amsterdam and most Schoharie County public systems, do not.

The Central Bridge water system stopped fluoridation about a year ago, Pangman said. Richmondville and Middleburgh are the only municipal systems in the country still using fluoride, according to state Health Department listings.

Water in Schenectady, Saratoga Springs and Gloversville is fluoridated.

Albany has never added fluoride and has no intention to start, city Water Board Chairman Anthony I. Ferrara said Friday.

In a Jan. 30 letter responding to an Albany City School District inquiry, Ferrara wrote that “there is considerable new information which indicates that there may be serious health implications to fluoridation, especially in regard to recent findings by the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council.”

Pospisil cited a 1945-55 study that found less childhood tooth decay in fluoride-using Newburgh compared to nonfluoridated Kingston.

She added, however, that the Health Department is “continually evaluating the evidence on safety and benefits, and no new evidence has emerged to question the practice of the water fluoridation.”