The debate over the practice of water fluoridation in Walden is poised to continue, as the Village Board decided unanimously during its June 6 meeting to further explore the possibility of dropping fluoride from its water supply. In the coming weeks, the village council will weigh the facts of the issue via testimony from outside health experts, as the state process for discontinuance of water fluoridation requires that municipalities bring in at least one accomplished health professional to provide their expertise as the board considers the matter.
A special public meeting dealing with the issue is expected to be set in the near future, once Village Manager John Revella and attorney David Donovan identify qualified professionals to testify. When Walden investigated the possibility of removing fluoride from its water supply four years ago, the discussion elicited many strong opinions from local residents, and the village board hopes to hear views from multiple sources before rendering their verdict. “I don’t think it will last months,” Walden Mayor Susan Rumbold said of the impending decision-making process. “The requirement of the new law is that you have to have a health care professional come in and tell us why we should leave fluoride in the water, etc. If you want to have opposing views with other healthcare professionals, then you do that. They’d make their presentations to the board and there would be a public hearing where hopefully the people who are actually using and drinking the water in the village will come out to voice their opinions. Then the board would take all of that information and make that decision.”
During the public comment portion of last Tuesday’s board meeting, Meg Atwood of Orange County Community College argued in favor of keeping fluoride in Walden’s water. “There’d be no plausible scientific reason for you to stop fluoridating your water supply,” Atwood, who teaches dental hygiene at the school, told the board. She added that the funds expended on water fluoridation is money well spent considering the amount of cash the community saves on dental costs as a result, as well as the benefits citizens receive in oral hygiene.
Trustee Lynn Thompson noted during the meeting that there are other health concerns tied to the ingestion of fluoride that are not connected to dental health. Atwood responded that “I’m a scientist, so I look at scientific evidence, I look at factual evidence and I look at the breadth of scientific evidence that is out there,” she explained. “If any of you do a Google search on water fluoridation, I guarantee you that the things that come up are going to be very frightening. If you do that with vaccination, you’ll get the same thing, and a lot of other contested things in public health. When we’re looking at public health, we’re looking at the good of the community from a health perspective. In order to look at that, you need to look at the scientific evidence.”
Walden resident Robert Walther told the board that he’s strongly in favor of the idea of eliminating fluoride from the public water supply. “Quite frankly, I think it’s unconscionable that you should forcibly medicate me and the whole village,” he said. “Aspirin is very good for you, so why don’t you start putting aspirins in the water? Some people say there’s too much pregnancy, so why not put anti-pregnancy pills in the water? I’m exaggerating to make a point of course. But the principle is, I shouldn’t be forcibly medicated.”
Thompson hopes the board can hear from a wide swath of medical experts before they make their ultimate decision on continuing water fluoridation. “I want to hear from the experts, but not just from a dentist,” she said. “I’d like to hear from an endocrinologist. I’d love to hear from a rheumatologist or a behavioral psychologist about some of the things that are affecting our children. It’s not just about your teeth, and I feel that some of the people who are upset about taking the fluoride away are focusing solely on the teeth. It’s a much broader topic than that. I say bring it. I’ll listen to the Department of Health, the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) or the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). I just want to present as much factual, well-studied, scientific information as possible, and we’ll see what the community thinks.”
Under state law, the village would have to come up with a dental health prevention plan if they chose to stop fluoridating their water. Rumbold noted during the session that the state process makes it harder to get out of the water fluoridation practice than it is to get in, and the mayor hopes the board will be hearing from many members of the Walden community as they make their way through the debate. “It is tough, but at the end of the day, we have to make a decision that we feel is best for the residents of our village,” she said. “When people come in from the state and the county, not all of them live in our community. That’s why I’m hoping that we get many voices from the community to say how they feel about it. That will help make our decision, because ultimately our decision is for them, no one else.”
At last week’s meeting, the board unanimously adopted Resolution 1-17-18 to accept an additional $27,000 in grant funding towards the sidewalk replacement project on Wait Street and Maple Street. The village had previously been awarded a $30,000 state Community Development Block Grant for the sidewalk renovations.
* Original article and comments online at http://timescommunitypapers.com/2017/06/walden-again-considers-dropping-fluoride/