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Group wants fluoride out of tap water

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Jasmine W. Borregine is convinced her three children should not drink city of Watertown water because it contains fluoride.

On Monday night, Mrs. Borregine and four other residents told the City Council about what they believe are the dangers of having fluoride in the water, citing numerous studies over the years. They contend that the chemical causes health problems, claiming that 41 percent of all teens suffer from “some form of fluorosis” caused by too much exposure to fluoride.

“The human body has no need for fluoride,” she told council members. “None. Fluoride is not a nutrient. Think about this: if you want to prevent sunburn, do you drink suntan lotion? Of course not. You apply it to your skin. The same goes for fluoride.”

She went on to say that too much of the colorless, tasteless additive causes skeletal problems and soft spots and chipping in the enamel of teeth. Mrs. Borregine, who has 3-, 4- and 7-year-old children, no longer uses tap water in her home. Her family drinks only bottled water, she said.

But North Country Children’s Clinic dental services director Judith R. Overton said this has been an unresolved, ongoing issue nationally, statewide and locally for several decades.

“There has been periodically people who make it their life’s work to eliminate fluoride from the water supply,” she said. “Watertown and Adams have had it for years.”

Mrs. Borregine started researching the issue after hearing that the City Council recently approved a $73,195 contract for Continental Construction, Gouverneur, to replace the city’s fluoride system at the water treatment plant. After studying the subject, she sent a letter to Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and the City Council voicing her concerns that “not only is fluoride unnecessary but it is harmful to our health.”

She also began posting her concerns on her Facebook page. She said her post went viral with many people having the same concerns. So she decided to attend Monday’s council meeting.

“It’s much more nefarious than you would think,” said Brainard Street resident Troy M. Walts, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency have conducted studies whose final reports caution against the use of fluoride.

The fluoride issue is no stranger in the north country. Recently, the village of Pulaski decided to no longer use fluoride in its water supply. But it did not have anything to do with health concerns. The village board removed the additive, citing problems with pipe corrosion and the cost of replacing corroded pipes.

About 12 years ago, Canton stopped fluoridating its water at the urging of Paul H. Connett, a professor emeritus of chemistry at St. Lawrence University and head of Fluoride Action Network. Mr. Connett cited numerous studies that show fluoride can have dangerous side effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent statistics, from 2010, 66 percent of the nation’s population receives fluoridated water.

Watertown has been fluoridating since 1962, said Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar, who continues to recommend its use but declined to comment further until he completes research on Mrs. Borregine’s presentation.

Mrs. Borregine acknowledged that statistics may show a drastic reduction in tooth decay in this country, but that is also happening in many western countries that do not use fluoride at all. Children are just getting better overall dental care, she said.

And she believes the American Dental Association uses its power to continue the fluoridation myth.

“But more and more people are coming out against its use,” she said.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Overton said Tuesday that it’s the most researched public health issue, stemming back to the Newburgh-Kingston Caries Fluorine Study in 1950. Over three years, Newburgh’s water supply was monitored after having 1 part per million sodium fluoride added to it. Kingston’s water supply had none, and the study compared results from 1947 to 1950. The evidence of decay decreased in Newburgh, but remained the same in Kingston, according to the study.

“If the water fluoridation isn’t there, they’ll see more disease,” Mrs. Overton said.

She said some controversy has surrounded the subject because when too much fluoride is in a water supply, it can cause fluorosis, or the change in appearance of tooth enamel. She said 1 part per million is the optimum amount of fluoride in a water supply.

On Monday night, council members listened to the complaints about fluoride but took no action, saying they did not know enough about the subject.

They plan to discuss the issue at Monday’s work session, which begins at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers of City Hall, 245 Washington St.

“I just don’t have the facts,” Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said. “I’m open to listen and hear the pros and cons.”

Times staff writer Rebecca Madden contributed to this report.

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