Fluoride was added to the city's drinking water at a level between .7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter In 1962. A state law was passed in recent years, however, that gave local jurisdictions in New York the ability to decide whether to keep the chemical.
In January 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended lowering the levels of fluoride in drinking water closer to .7, as it was reported that two in five children in America show signs of fluorosis, which involves mild to moderate white spots on their teeth.
Vallone, who represents Astoria, said he is introducing legislation to ban fluoride because the city should not self-medicate its residents.
He recommended those who are concerned about fluoride poisoning purchase water filters for their faucets.
“I have serious questions with using the water supply to force-medicate,” Vallone said in a recent interview. “What's next, once you set this precedent that the government can decide what's good for you?
“Maybe they'll decide we're not happy enough, let's put some Xanex in the water,” he said, referring to an anti-anxiety prescription medication.
However, Vallone's good friend Councilman James Gennaro, who represents Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, disagrees with his proposal.
After singing Vallone's praises for being an environmental, public safety and animal rights activist, Gennaro said his Western Queens colleague is misguided by false science.
Lobbyists against fluoride “engage in a lot of scare tactics that are scientifically baseless,” Gennaro said, adding that “water fluoridation is one of the top 10 health advances of the 20th Century.”
However, Gennaro said city residents should not ask advice regarding fluoride from elected officials, but rather from medical professionals whom they trust.
New York City spends roughly $25 million per year adding fluoride to its water, according to the Department of Health.
In addition, according to a 1990 published study “Fluoride: Benefits and Risks of Exposure,” the chemical can be harmful to kidney patients, diabetics and those with fluoride hyper-sensitivity, even at levels deemed safe by the CDC.
But Gennaro said such findings are not backed by actual science.
Dr. Mark Wolff, associate dean of pre-doctoral education and chair and professor at the Department of Cariology, the study of decay, and Comprehensive Care at New York University, agreed that the use of fluoride is one of the largest public health victories for children and the elderly, who are most susceptible to tooth decay. He added that it therefore also has a monetary benefit in public health.
“There's a laundry list of 'what if's',” Wolff said, stating that fluoride has been blamed for numerous health problems, including the growth of tumors and the development of autism. “Every study has come back and said there's just no evidence of risk to the public.
“What we do know is that children, geriatrics,” and other at-risk populations, “all reduce the number of cavities they're going to get because they drink fluoridated water.”
However, he agreed that the CDC lowered its recommended fluoride dose because of the rise in fluorosis among children, which occurs because they consume fluoride from other substances, including toothpaste.
But Wolff said fluorisis is a greater risk for residents in southern states, where they consume more water due to the heat.
In summation, as a medical professional, Wolff said the benefits he's seen from fluoride in drinking water in reducing tooth decay are massive.
“If we take fluoride out of the water in New York City, dentists will be busier in the next decade,” he said.
To further the discussion, Vallone will host a rally on the steps of City Hall at 11 a.m. on May 15.
Later in the day, at 1 p.m., he will announce a proclamation honoring P.S. 122 teacher Rebecca Victoros for her efforts in leading her students through scientific research projects in her program Project Citizen.
Recently, students in Project Citizen studied the effects of fluoride in drinking water, and will stand with Vallone when he announces his legislation at City Hall, a representative from his office said.