MIDDLETOWN — Nine years after the city passed a law authorizing the fluoridation of its water, it’s finally going to happen.
The Common Council voted for fluoridation in 2003, and the new water treatment plant, which opened in 2010, was designed with fluoridation in mind, said Public Works Commissioner Jacob Tawil. He said they wanted to wait a couple of years after the new plant opened before starting fluoridation, to make sure there weren’t any problems with the plant’s operation.
The city still needs to issue a public notice and inform the Health Department before fluoridation starts, Mayor Joe DeStefano said. The advance notice will allow people who might be taking fluoride supplements to adjust their intake. Flouridation will likely start in a couple of months, he said.
The City of Newburgh was the site of some of the first fluoridation studies — its water was fluoridated in 1945, and studies in the ensuing years compared dental health there to Kingston, to test the effects. Although more than 60 percent of Americans now drink fluoridated water, most communities in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties don’t fluoridate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Newburgh, New Paltz, Monticello, Cornwall, New Windsor, Walden, Highland Falls and Marlborough are among the communities with fluoridated water.
Most dental professionals support fluoridation since it greatly reduces tooth decay, said Paul Baker, a pediatrician with Crystal Run Health Care who has been pushing for fluoridation in Middletown for decades. Although it does help adults, Baker said, it mostly benefits children, since fluoride gets into their teeth as they’re growing, hardening the enamel. He said he expects poor residents, who are less likely to go to the dentist or take fluoride supplements, will benefit the most from fluoridated water.
Fluoride opponents say it can lead to a variety of ill health effects, including yellowed and pitted teeth.
It will cost about $20,000 a year, Tawil said.