NISKAYUNA– Town leaders’ decision to lower fluoride levels in the suburb’s drinking water will allow residents to continue enjoying the additive’s dental benefits while placating critics who argue fluoride damages teeth and is available in most toothpastes, according to Richard Pollock, Niskayuna’s superintendent of water and sewers.
He said although there was no formal vote, the Town Board decided earlier this year to lower the fluoride levels from 1 part per million to 0.8 parts per million.
Opponents contend fluoridation may lead to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, dental fluorosis that can mar the appearance of young children’s teeth, a weakening of the bones called skeletal fluorosis and, in extreme cases, fluoride poisoning.
“It’s still within the acceptable level, and 0.8 is at the low end of the range,” said Pollock, adding that neighboring Schenectady also adds fluoride to its water while the city of Albany and the Latham water district don’t.
Niskayuna Supervisor Joseph Landry called the move to lower fluoride levels ”consistent with the proposal put forth by the federal government.”
He was referring to a national study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that proposed lowering the recommended optimal fluoride level in drinking water from a range of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million to a maximum of 0.7 parts per million.
Pollock said Niskayuna may revisit the issue and look at reducing fluoride levels to that proposed limit.
Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman with the state Department of Health, said the agency does not keep a list of communities that lower fluoride levels but monitors federal action and has had conversations with municipalities and local health departments on the issue.
He said that though health departments may have requirements regarding fluoride levels, they and the federal government only make recommendations about levels or ranges.
Fluoridation began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945 when it became the first community to implement water fluoridation by adjusting the fluoride content of its water supply to 1 part per million, according to the National Cancer Institute’s website. It said that by 1992, more than 60 percent of the U.S. population served by public water systems had access to water fluoridated at 1 part per million.