Shaler’s drinking water doesn’t need a dose of fluoride, several commissioners decided Tuesday.
Shaler’s water committee recommended last night that a proposal to add fluoride to the township’s drinking water be rejected.
“I am of the opinion that we are not here to administer drugs, and I consider this a drug,” Commissioner Jim Boyle said.
Commissioners are to vote on the issue at the board’s regular meeting 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association endorse adding fluoride to drinking water, saying it helps prevent tooth decay. Dental health professionals in Shaler generally support adding fluoride.
But some Shaler residents oppose adding fluoride, citing health concerns.
The Shaler water system provides tap water to more than 30,000 people in Etna, Millvale, most of Shaler and parts of Hampton and O’Hara. Some higher elevations in Shaler, including the Pin Oak and Calmwood sections, receive their water from the West View Water Authority.
“It’s a personal decision,” Commissioner Joe Gally said. “If you want fluoride, you can get it in a drug store.”
Shaler resident Cheryl Vaughn agreed.
“I’d rather have my kids have a cavity or two or five than having something down the road that gives them cancer,” she said.
But Christine Kulbacki, a dental hygienist who works in Shaler, insisted that fluoride in the water “is going to help people who don’t have dental insurance. It’s not a lot of money when you take into consideration the cost of a child getting cavities.”
Officials estimate the annual cost of adding fluoride to drinking water at less than $1 per person.
Still, despite low costs and its apparent benefits, opposition to fluoride has grown in recent years. Some scientists say the full effects of fluoride have not been adequately studied.
And Paul Connett, a chemist at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., said that the use of fluoride violates the rules of medical ethics.
“We are supposed to be informed to the benefits and downside of a medicine. This is being completely abandoned when we put fluoride in the water,” Connett said.
The CDC estimates that around two-thirds of Americans and about 54 percent of Pennsylvanians who use public water systems receive fluoridated water. In Allegheny County, approximately 93 percent of residents drinks fluoridated water.
Shaler is one of nine water suppliers in the county that do not fluoridate drinking water. The county’s other 31 suppliers, including the city of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, add fluoride to drinking supplies.
Water without fluoride
The following areas in Allegheny County have non-fluoridated water supplies:
Cheswick — Includes Cheswick and part of Springdale Township.
Coraopolis — Includes Coraopolis and part of Moon.
Duquesne — Includes Duquesne and part of West Mifflin.
Harmar — Includes Harmar and part of Springdale Township.
Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, McKeesport Division — Includes McKeesport, Forward, North Versailles, Port Vue, Versailles and part of White Oak.
Shaler — Includes Etna, Millvale, most of Shaler and parts of Hampton and O’Hara.