The debate over adding fluoride resumes tonight when Shaler commissioners hear the township water committee’s recommendation on which path to take.
After 10 months of reviewing pros and cons, the three-member water committee will reveal its suggestion when commissioners meet at 6:30 p.m. in the township building, 300 Wetzel Road.
Public comment will be taken tonight, and the seven commissioners are to make a decision in February.
The Shaler system provides water to 40,000 people in Shaler, Etna and parts of Millvale, Hampton and O’Hara.
Fluoride, which has been added to drinking water in communities throughout the country since World War II, is largely credited with preventing tooth decay.
However, some fear health risks.
Ludwig said fluoride in the water is a health risk to people like herself who have an underactive thyroid.
“They actually give you fluoride if you have an overactive thyroid” to reduce its activity, she said. “If it were coming out of my tap water, I would want to purchase bottled water.”
Commissioner Joe Gally, a member of the water committee, said fluoride is a medicine that people should choose for themselves.
“If you want fluoride, you use toothpaste. There are a lot of people who don’t like fluoride and shouldn’t be pushed into using it,” Gally said.
Since March, when commissioners began their fluoride study, they have been bombarded with correspondence from as far away as Ireland and Hawaii, mainly from fluoride opponents. Opponents say fluoride accumulates in the body and might cause long-term health effects, such as bone ailments and lower IQ.
Dental professionals, however, say that fluoride is a valuable tool in fighting cavities.
Kulbacki, a dental hygienist for Shaler dentist Dr. Arnold Peace, said fluoride’s benefits outweigh its health risks. She said that she sees more patients with cavities at Peace’s practice in Shaler than at other practices where she has worked.
“(People) can choose to drink bottled water,” she said. “But would you want your children to have cavities?”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credits fluoridated water with reducing tooth decay and estimates that two-thirds of Americans drink fluoridated water.
Kevin Cridge, plant foreman at the Shaler Water Treatment Plant, said Shaler shouldn’t put fluoride in the water.
“It’s irrelevant whether fluoride is or isn’t harmful,” Cridge said. “We shouldn’t be adding anything to the water that would cause a physical change to people, and that’s exactly what we’d be doing if we put fluoride in the water. We don’t put aspirin or Bufferin in the water for headaches. Why would we put fluoride in the water?”