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City-appointed committee to study fluoride issue

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Over the decades, countless studies have shown the pros and cons of putting fluoride in water supplies across the country.

And now the city will look at the effects that the colorless, tasteless additive has on its water supply.

City Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar is putting together a group of experts to study the issue.

He has contacted 12 doctors, dentists and public health officials to see if they would serve on the ad-hoc committee. He said he hopes to name the committee by the end of the year.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham suggested that a couple of opponents of fluoridation also should be part of the committee.

Mr. Sligar continues to recommend fluoride use, although he said the city should keep better tabs on its levels.

Last month, a small group of residents opposed having fluoride in city water because they believe the additive damages teeth and causes other health problems. They are trying to get other residents involved in their efforts.

But the Jefferson-Lewis County Dental Society and individual dentists said they believe fluoride fights decay and should remain in the water supply. The city began adding fluoride to its water in 1962.

Dr. Andrew E.C. Crossley, president of the Dental Association, said local dentists have not seen a spike in dental or health problems caused by fluoridation. Instead, they have seen the contrary.

The city also uses a safe amount of fluoride as has been suggested by national studies, he said, noting problems occur only when too much is used. The average daily level for October was 1.02 milligrams per liter. According to federal standards, the recommended level is 1 mg/L.

The dentist also said that similar debates pop up every 20 years or so, and typically they offer the same arguments.

Opponents typically use “anecdotal evidence,” but credible studies over the years have determined that fluoride use is safe and beneficial in fighting tooth decay, he said. Fluoride is found naturally in bodies of water.

Dr. Crossley intends to bring up the issue at the Dental Association’s January meeting.

To help lobby for support, opponents have created a website and started circulating a petition against fluoride use.

Organizer Troy M. Walts, 380 Brainard St., said he believes fluoridation “is mass medication” and people get too much of the additive. He suggested the city should hand out fluoride tablets to residents who are willing to ingest it.

“We wash our cars with it. We wash our dishes with it,” he said. “We water our lawns with it. I don’t need someone to tell me what my, or anyone else’s, fluoride level should be.”

Mr. Walts also has challenged Mr. Sligar or any dentist, doctor or public health official to a debate about the issue.

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