CASSADAGA - Thirty-one members of the public attended a public meeting meant to provide information about fluoridation of water to customers of the Cassadaga water system.
The estimate from the Cassadaga Village Board is about 1,190 people use Cassadaga water. Besides village residents, residents in Lily Dale and at the Cassadaga Job Corps Academy also depend on the village for water.
Mayor LeeAnn Lazarony said she has heard from a number of people on the subject and encouraged everyone to contact the board about the issue.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Thirty-one members of the public attended a special meeting concerning fluoridation of Cassadaga’s water supply. Those not in favor of fluoridation were vocal in their opposition.
The website is www.cassadaganewyork.org. The tab "village officials" leads directly to email links for each board member.
The board will probably vote on the issue during its meeting of Oct. 17, so board members would like to hear from as many customers as possible before then.
One person asked why the meet-ing was called since "the board has already made up its mind."
Lazarony assured those present, "A vote has not been taken on this (fluoridation)."
She also attempted to quiet the opponents of fluoride several times, asking for courtesy for the speakers and promising they would have the opportunity to speak later.
Emmy Chetkin objected to the speakers that were present. "This is lopsided and biased," she said. She loudly objected that the board should have gotten an expert who was opposed to fluoridation.
Lined up to speak were: Greg McCorkhill, the engineer in charge of the water project; Deputy Mayor Rodney Waite who is also a dentist; Paul Snyder from the Chautauqua County Department of Health; Deborah Staples, a registered dental hygienist who works for the Resource Center; and Jay Kumar, DDS (doctor of dental science) MPH, (Masters of Public Health) from the New York State Department of Health. Kumar was present via speaker phone.
Information about fluoridation from the state Department of Health was available for the audience to take home. The NYSDOH supports fluoridation as a public health measure. A member of the public brought information opposed to fluoride and this was available as well.
Lazarony explained that a referendum on the subject is not an option according to municipal law. The board will have to make the decision.
McCorkhill was available to answer technical questions about the design of a system fluoridating water, not to offer an opinion on the matter. He explained fluoridation is done last; after the addition of chlorine that kills harmful bacteria and the sequestering agent which removes iron and manganese that are an aesthetic problem. He said the "dosing pump" does not operate constantly but only when the well is in operation.
Deputy Mayor Rodney Waite spoke next. From his experience as a dentist and his study of the matter, he believes that fluoride prevents tooth decay, strengthens teeth during their formation (young children) and keeps the enamel of older children and adults strong and solid.
"Sixty-five years of research has shown it (fluoride) to be safe and effective," he said.
"The Center for Disease Control and prevention has called fluoridation 'one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th Century,'" he added.
Paul Snyder from the Chautauqua County Department of Health said, "I have lived in a fluoridated community, both Jamestown and Westfield. To me it's a benefit."
He compared fluoridation to adding a vitamin to the water and explained that if fluoridation were done, the water would be tested daily. He maintained that the fluoride is at a very low dosage, like the chlorine that is added to kill bacteria.
After some technical difficulties with the speaker phone, Dr. Jay Kumar addressed the audience using a presentation that was controlled in Cassadaga. He said, "Eighty percent of children have cavities by graduation from high school."
Poor oral health has a public cost in terms of paying for treatment for those on Medicaid. Poor oral health can lead to further medical problems up to causing infection to the brain. Repeated treatment of dental problems impacts attendance and performance at school.
Kumar has studied the effects of fluoride and said the evidence is overwhelming that adding fluoride to the water prevents cavities, reverses microcavities, and strengthens developing teeth in children. Many agencies including the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association have reviewed the studies and endorse fluoridation. Surgeon generals Everett Coop and David Satcher have both endorsed the practice.
Kumar explained that good public health measures are those in which "There is no need for the individual to take action. This fits that criteria very well." In New York State 73.9 percent of water systems are fluoridated, and the Department of Health's goal is for the percentage to reach 80 percent..
Fluoride occurs naturally in water. The Cassadaga water already contains .25 ppm (parts per million). An effective dose is now considered to be .7 to 1.2 ppm. At higher levels, enamel fluorosis can occur.
"In three large scale studies,"Kumar said," there were markings on the teeth that were barely noticed."
Skeletal fluorosis, a condition where excess fluoride makes bones brittle, was another concern of the audience. Kumar said he had never found a case in New York State. He said the evidence is overwhelming that fluoridation is safe and effective at the recommended levels.
Deborah Staples also spoke in favor of fluoridation from her perspective as a dental hygienist with the Resource Center. She said it can make a difference to children.
Trustee Michael Lehnen spoke against fluoride. He said, "Speaking as an individual, I am 100 percent against it." He pointed out that there was a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the substance which shows it has potential harmful effects.
His major point was that he believes that the community should have the right to decide whether to fluoridate.
The handout from a person opposed to fluoride stated, "We would not purposely add arsenic to the water supply. And we would not purposely add lead. But we add fluoride. The fact is that fluoride is more toxic than lead and just slightly less toxic than arsenic."
The handout also contained a list of cities, counties, and countries that have rejected fluoride.
Several audience members got up to speak. Former trustee Jeff Frick wanted to know how much this cost. The answer was under $15,000. He said, "We don't want it so we shouldn't spend any money on it."
Dr. Aaron Smith who was in the audience was questioned by the group. He said he didn't want to take a stand, but when pressed said, "It might be a good measure for the majority, but might not be right for an individual."
Others asked the board not to vote for fluoridation. One person asked for a show of hands from those opposed to fluoridation. About 20 hands were raised.
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