MASSENA — The Village of Massena will continue to add fluoride to the village water supply following a special board meeting on June 6.

The Village Board of Trustees approved the continuation of fluoridation for the 2023-24 fiscal year by a 5-1 vote.

A need for the special meeting presented itself after hydrofluosilicic acid (HFS) was removed during a previous vote on water treatment supplies when Trustee Ken McGowan said using HFS was “an outdated practice” and questioned the need. McGowan was the only no vote during the special meeting.

Over a dozen village residents were also in attendance at the meeting, with many speaking in favor of continuing the use of fluoride in the village water supply.

Speaking in favor of fluoridation

Multiple speakers came forward to support the continuation of fluoridation, including two doctors with a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Dr. Charles Negus, who practiced in dentistry for 43 years, said the discussion is one that was undertaken long ago.

“We had this discussion 58 years ago. It has been in the water 57 years,” he said.

Negus told board members and attendees that fluoridation of water is a recommended treatment by the American Medical Association, American Dental Association and the World Health Organization.

“The World Health Organization said fluoridation of the water supply was the most important health gain in 50 years and that’s because dental decay attacks not just your teeth but the whole body because of its start in the whole digestive system,” he said.

Negus also commented that there have been no adverse effects reported by any reputable researcher.

“And I want to stress the word reputable,” he said.

Negus also spoke to the nature of individuals failing to following through taking prescribed medication, saying that compliance among those to take prescribed medication or written prescriptions is at best 60%.

“If you’re going to rely on people to take a non-prescribed medication, I think you will find it will be even less and that will affect our poorest people,” he said.

Resident Margaret Demo also spoke in favor of continued fluoridation, saying it was a matter of protecting children moving forward.

Demo said she was “very disturbed” to think it was possible they may remove fluoride from the water supply.

“I have three sons that are in their 40s, 50s age range and they have benefited greatly from having the fluoride in the water. One of my sons never had a cavity. The other two have had one, two tops and they’ve been fortunate that they were able to have the fluoride and good dental care,” she said.

Demo said she was concerned for all children, especially those that do not have the benefit of quality dental care.

“I don’t know the whole thing about why it’s even being raised and who it will benefit to take this away from the children. I wish that you would just leave well enough alone,” she said.

Dr. Johnny Johnson, president of the American Fluoridation Society, attended the meeting via Zoom to voice his support for it’s continuation in Massena.

Johnson spoke to ongoing conspiracies that claim fluoride is a toxic byproduct of industry, saying the notion is ridiculous.

This is just laughable because it is something that you’re asked to believe. There is a conspiracy that others will tell you that we as dentists were told in dental school that fluoride was good for the teeth. Therefore, we began telling people that because we helped the industry get rid of something they couldn’t get rid of,” he said.

Johnson cited the number of research articles in the National Library of Medicine, nearly 7,000 in total, that support the notion that fluoride will only benefit populations.

Johnson told attendees that evidence is overwhelming in it’s support of fluoride in drinking water, saying the decision in public health follows the extensive research that has been conducted over the years.

He also noted that fluoride is also in toothpaste, showing it’s widespread acceptance in reducing cavities.

But while Dr. Johnson spoke in support of fluoride, one resident spoke in opposition.

Opposing fluoride for 20 years

Robert LeBoeuf said he started his movement nearly 20 years, “probably in this room”, as he addressed the board in the ongoing debate.

LeBoeuf cited Dr. Paul Connett as a voice of opposition to fluoride, saying Dr. Connett “has a mountain of evidence” against its use.

LeBoeuf said the evidence supplied by Connett shows the “percentage decrease in cavities is tiny.”

Another concern of his revolved around the designation of fluoride as a medication.

“What right does anybody have to medicate somebody else against their will,” he asked.

“The other thing that bothers me about it and Dr. Connett brought this up quite a bit, is you can’t control dosage. It’s in just about every liquid. So, you’re getting it everywhere you turn. If you look at the studies there’s a pile of evidence against it.”

But Dr. Negus pushed back on that notion, saying he didn’t know how an individual could drink enough water to overdose.

“He’s concerned about forcing medication on people. If you follow his line of thinking we should also take chlorine out of our drinking water. That’s a chemical sister of fluoride. I beg you not to take chlorine out of the water. We would have dysentery before you turn around,” Negus said.

The Board votes yes

Following public comment board members took time to weigh the pros and cons, with McGowan voicing opposition.

McGowan cited a number of statistics related to the village, including the number of gallons processed versus that which will be consumed and how much had been billed by the village.

According to McGowan, just under two million gallons would be used for drinking compared to 466 million gallons that will be process through the water treatment plant.

McGowan pointed to the $22,000 price tag that comes with the fluoride purchase as cause for concern.

“How much of the water is being drank? I think with that $22,000, maybe there’s a different avenue we could go because most of that water is not being utilized. I think we could utilize that somewhere else,” he said.

McGowan said he did not support mandating the use of fluoride against the will of residents, saying it should fall to the family to decide if they wanted to use fluoride or not.

Trustee Christine Winston, who voted in favor of continued fluoridation, did say she was concerned about the control the village would have to not put excess fluoride in the drinking water.

Dr. Negus refuted the concern, saying it’s being done in a safe and controlled fashion.

Winston pushed back slightly, suggesting that fluoride is already being consumed in foods and other products.

“It’s hard to know how much each and every one of us is getting. While we definitely do not want to have dental decay be an issue, there are other things we could do in the community,” she said.

After all was said and done, Mayor Greg Paquin said he had done a significant amount of research and spoke to local dentists prior to making his decision to move forward with the yes vote.

Paquin said after breaking down the amount absorbed per person, “the $20,000 we spend is probably the most cost-effective way to deliver the right amount of fluoride for children in their infancy until 17 years of age and it still benefits adults.”

Paquin also pointed out the fact that the Department of Health would just mandate another program to provide fluoride.

“That’s going to cost us more than $22,000, I’m quite sure of that,” he added.

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