After several meetings of discussion, the State College Borough Water Authority voted on Thursday to discontinue adding fluoride to the water, which is used by an average of over 75,000 people daily.

The vote was unanimous, after one member — Bernard Hoffnar — resigned in opposition, a stance shared by a number of local dentists and medical professionals who have urged the SCBWA to continue fluoridation.

In June, at least ten people who work in the medical field spoke against a subcommittee’s recommendation for the authority to discontinue adding fluoride to the water that serves customers in State College Borough and parts of Benner, College, Harris, Halfmoon, Patton and Ferguson townships. The board again heard opinions on the matter from a dozen people on Thursday.

Sarah Goard, president of Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists’ Association, said she works with kids aged zero to 20 in Medicaid as a public health dental hygienist for UPMC. She spoke in support of fluoridation.

“A lot of times it’s, unfortunately, not a choice of the children’s to learn good oral hygiene habits or even make it to the dentist. You know, our position within UPMC has been created to help educate children, their parents and caregivers and kind of bridge that gap and bring mobile units to them. But really, we’re just putting a minor dent in that and it’s not enough,” Goard said. “I think that … removing the fluoride from the water would be detrimental to not only those children that are most in need, but really just the community as a whole.”

Vice Chair Rachel Brennan said there’s “no question” that fluoridated applications prevent cavities.

“That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re actually looking holistically through all the effects of the body, neurotoxicity, as well as other effects, which have mainly not come out until the past recent couple of years,” she said.

After several meetings of discussion, the SCBWA members sided with a subcommittee that previously recommended to the board 2-1 to cease fluoridation. That committee developed a presentation that advocates have argued was based in an outdated or misunderstanding of the current science.

The fluoride comes from China, Brennan said, and they don’t know the method of production.

“A lot of these fluorides are made from the fertilizer industry and so you have some residual compounds in there, and on our certificate of analysis for our sodium fluoride, there are heavy metals present. It is safe … it’s under the action level for lead, but it’s still adding heavy metals into the water that we’ve so painstakingly cleaned,” Brennan said.

SCBWA member Gary Peterson was part of the fluoride subcommittee. He said the fluoride used is not a pharmaceutical grade compound, and may have heavy metals or arsenic in it. He said fluoride is a neurotoxin, which interferes with brain functions.

But his biggest concern was a social justice issue.

“Our customers don’t have a freedom of choice. We’re forcing our customers to drink fluoridated water. And as a member of this authority, I do not think it is the role of our authority to medicate our customers,” Peterson said.

Most of the data on neurotoxicity has come out since 2017, Brennan said.

“Those reports are cause for caution. And it is our job as members of the water authority to do our due diligence and protection of the community,” she said.

Jason Grottini and other members stressed this isn’t a cost-saving measure. In 2019, the SCBWA budgeted over $70,000 for the purchase of sodium fluoride, equipment maintenance, labor and analysis. “I don’t view this as a cost saving measure for the authority.

I don’t think cost is an equation here. Yes, we spend money on fluoridating the water. But I’d be just as happy to put that money into education, outreach,” Grottini said.

Brennan encouraged the authority to consider what they could do as a community to improve the oral health of children.

“I echo what Jason said, let’s invest in these oral health education programs with our youth, with the disadvantaged and really target the problem collectively together to find a better solution to this,” Brennan said.

Grottini made the motion to cease fluoridation, and it was seconded by Nathaniel Warner. Members Jeffrey Kern, Emory Enscore, Warner, Grottini, Peterson and Brennan voted in favor.

Hoffnar was the only member who was in favor of continuing to add fluoride, something the authority has done since 1954.

“I feel it’s our responsibility to be responsible. And if we stop fluoridation, I believe that is not being responsible,” Hoffnar said.

Instead of voting as such, he resigned during the vote, making the vote unanimous.

“I’m not gonna vote, I’m gonna resign. I think this is such an unfortunate situation and I don’t want to be part of a group that, in fact, is going to hurt the health of the people we’re serving,” Hoffnar said.

Brian Heiser, SCBWA executive director, said the authority will have to modify its operating permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection, which will require a hearing.

*Original article online at