It’s something that’s been around in many communities for decades, but not without controversy. And now, Cortland leaders are considering adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water. As TWC News’ Philip O’Driscoll reports, that’s leading to a lot of debate about the positive, and potentially negative, health effects.
The city of Cortland has never had fluoride in its water supply. The topic was last discussed in 2003 and shot down. But 13 years later, New York State is offering a $50,000 grant for the city to study the feasibilty of adding fluoride to the water.
It’s not a move with which everyone agrees.
“Fluoridation is somewhat dangerous to people that have certain health conditions,” chiropractor and clinical nutritionist Dr. Timothy Schaub said, “because when they fluoridate, there’s no way to control the dosage.”
Schaub says those health conditions range from kidney disease to thyroid conditions. But advocates point to fluoride’s positive effect on oral health.
Some experts say the lack of fluoride locally is noticeable.
“One out of every three adults in Cortland County has lost all their permanent teeth due to decay and gum disease,” Cortland County Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said.
Health Department officials say there are currently no detectable levels of fluoride in Cortland’s water supply. Others are concerned of its regulation if introduced.
“Anything that goes into drinking water, fluoride included, has to be approved by the National Sanitation Foundation, AINSE –which is American National Standards Institute — [and the] American Waterworks Association,” Cortland County Health Department Environmental Director Mike Ryan said, “and [it] is done and tested to make sure there are no impurities.”
Ryan says there are regulations in place to detect high levels of other naturally-occurring elements like lead and arsenic. But opponents like Schaub say they’re skeptical of those regulations. He believes the government should mandate a move away from flouride, like it did with lead paint.
Because of that, he doesn’t think Cortland should make any changes.
“Getting rid of the fluoridation in a city because it leaves substances and toxic chemicals is an extremely costly event,” Schaub said, “and I don’t think that the city of Cortland should have to go through that.”
The Cortland County Health Department is asking the City Council to move forward with the grant, since it would only fund an engineering study. If fluoride were to eventually be added to the water supply, that would come much later.