EGG HARBOR CITY — Fluoride will stay in the water supply after City Council voted 7-1 Thursday night in favor of continuing the oral health supplement.
Only Councilman Robert Ross voted to end fluoridation.
The chemical is added to water in tiny amounts to strengthen teeth as they develop in young children and to help prevent cavities for people of all ages.
Fluoride supporters dominated a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss whether to continue the practice.
But Ross said then he has seen information linking fluoridation of water to lowered IQs and a greater risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.
Dental and public health experts such as Northfield periodontist Richard Levitt and Atlantic County Division of Public Health Director and Health Officer Pat Diamond said at Wednesday’s meeting that water fluoridation has been proved safe for almost 60 years. About 75 percent of community water systems in the U.S. are fluoridated, versus about 15 percent in New Jersey.
Levitt cautioned people to carefully investigate any studies they read about online and presented the council with a booklet titled “Fluoridation Facts” from the American Dental Association. It reviews the research on fluoride’s effectiveness and safety.
Every dollar spent fluoridating water saves $38 in dental treatment costs, Levitt said.
Egg Harbor City and Atlantic City municipal water supplies are the only two that use fluoride in the region. Egg Harbor City spends about $2,800 a year on the chemical.
Fluoride is added in amounts of 0.7 parts per million to 1.2 parts per million to Egg Harbor City’s water, Water Department Superintendent Jerry Gleason said.
Some studies have found lowered IQs in children in villages in China and India who have been exposed to high levels of naturally occurring fluoride. But those levels start at many times the levels in fluoridated water, and there are also other explanations for the neurological defects, John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health, said in a phone interview.
In China, for example, there is also a high level of fluoride in coal that is burned for heat in homes, he said.
Health organizations, such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and scores of other medical and dental organizations, say fluoride has no medical downside in the proper amounts.
Bucher said the NIH has a draft document, recommending reducing to no more than .7 parts per million the amount used for water fluoridation, because fluoride is in so many dental products. The concern isn’t about health problems, but because of cosmetic problems. Dentists have been reporting more fluorosis of teeth — a discoloring caused by slightly elevated fluoride levels.