The Walden Village Board took another step towards eliminating fluoride from the municipality’s water supply last week, but there are still numerous additional requirements the village must fulfill before the program could be ended. In recent weeks, the board received expert written testimony from a number of health care professionals on both sides of the water fluoridation issue in accordance with a state mandate that towns must seek expert counsel before removing fluoride from public water.
During the council’s Oct. 3 session, town attorney Dave Donovan informed the board that they could move on to the next part of the process if they chose to. “If the board is satisfied with the health professional and you wish to move forward with the discontinuation of the fluoride, it would be appropriate at this time for you to authorize me to prepare a resolution for the next meeting (Oct. 17) to commence the process of discontinuing the use of fluoride in the village drinking water,” he explained to the board. The group then voted 6-1 in favor of continuing the process, with Deputy Mayor Sean Hoffman casting the sole vote against the measure.
If the board decides to drop the issue altogether, water fluoridation would simply continue on, but last Tuesday the council decided to forge ahead.
“After we examined all the statements by the health care professionals, we have decided we are going to move forward with the process,” Walden Mayor Susan Rumbold said.
Under state law, the village would have to inform the state Department of Health three months in advance if they wanted to stop adding fluoride to the water, and would have to craft an alternative health plan for residents.
“We’d have to compile the data from the professionals and we’d have to provide the state with our reasoning to remove it and our plan for informing the public how to access fluoride if that’s what they choose to do,” Rumbold said. “Right now we’re in a paperwork phase. We’d have to give the state 90 days prior notice before we can remove it, so we’re basically moving on to the compilation phase of getting all this information together.”
The state implemented a law two years ago to slow the process for any municipality that chooses to discontinue water fluoridation, and the board would still have to vote to rescind the local law that allows the village to add fluoride to public water before the practice could be halted. “Certain board members felt this was something they wanted to revisit and the law has changed,” Rumbold said. “The law used to be that a board could vote to remove it arbitrarily if that’s what their decision was. Evidently a new law was passed in 2015 that says that you have to go through these phases to accomplish that, so that’s basically the process. We had a public discussion about the feelings of the members of the board, our attorney advised us about what steps we had to take, and that’s how we ended up where we are today.”
During the village’s information gathering stage, the board heard in-person testimony from Orange County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Eli Avila and received written responses from professionals advocating for and against water fluoridation. While Dr. Avila contended that the practice should continue, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) sent the village a detailed report arguing against the program. “In IAOMT’s ongoing examination of the toxicological data on fluoride, the Academy has made several preliminary determinations over the last 18 years, each concluding that fluoride added to the public water supply, or prescribed as controlled-dose supplements, delivers no discernible health benefit, and causes a higher incidence of adverse health effects,” the report stated. “This current policy position by IAOMT confirms those earlier assessments and asserts that there is no discernible health benefit derived from ingested fluoride and that the preponderance of evidence shows that ingested fluoride in dosages now prevalent in public exposures aggravates existing illnesses, and causes a greater incidence of adverse health effects. Ingested fluoride is hereby recognized as unsafe and ineffective for the purposes of reducing tooth decay.”
The board also received strong defenses of water fluoridation, as Dr. Scott Hines of the Department of Endocrinology from Crystal Run Healthcare maintained that the village should keep adding fluoride to its water and Dr. Jonathan Nasser of Crystal Run also called on Walden to continue the initiative. “The safety and efficacy of water fluoridation has been thoroughly studied for many decades,” Dr. Hines wrote. “Fluorination has been shown to reduce tooth decay which, once it occurs, is irreversible and can lead to pain, infection, impaired chewing ability, and tooth loss. Studies that suggest that fluorination can lead to adverse effects such as cancers, fractures, reduce IO, and abnormalities in the endocrine and reproductive systems have consistently been shown to be flawed studies and use fluoride levels much higher than levels reached by public water fluorination programs. Based on its proven efficacy and safety, water fluorination has been recommended by all major healthcare organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and American Dental Association. I want to recognize the leadership that the Village of Walden has taken in initiating and maintaining its water fluorination program and would strongly encourage the Village Board to continue this program.”
The council did not receive a visit from any state health representatives during the months-long process. “Albany is not going to present a different case than what the local health department told us, they work in conjunction with each other,” Trustee Lynn Thompson said. “So we’d get more information, but it’s going to be more of the same information, you’re not going to get any other information.” Thompson also noted that the naturally-occurring fluoride levels in village water are already robust without adding the substance to the public supply.
By Ted Remsnyder