Vallone may have other aspirations (mayor?) as he chooses this as a platform, but it is a challenging one and I am glad that at least one of the local politicians initiated this, now it will proliferate and gain momentum.
Four decades after New York started adding fluoride to its water, a city councilman armed with new research is launching a campaign to stop the practice.
"This amounts to forced medication by the government," said Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), who plans to introduce fluoride-removal legislation at the next Council meeting. "What's next? They decide we're depressed and add Prozac to our drinking water?"
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hails the addition of fluoride to drinking water as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century - helping to drastically reduce tooth decay, especially in people with limited access to a dentist.
The CDC touts research showing fluoride is safe at the low levels added to city water systems.
A full 72% of Americans drink water fortified with the natural mineral.
"The bottom line is that we don't have any concern [about fluoride's safety]," said Linda Orgain, a CDC specialist.
But critics are troubled by new studies that suggest consuming too much fluoride can weaken teeth and bones. A recent study in China even suggested that exposure to high levels of fluoride can diminish children's intelligence.
Such studies prompted a panel of scientists convened by the National Academy of Sciences to recommend in 2006 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lower the amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water from the currently permitted level of 4 milligrams per liter.
New York's water has about 1 milligram per liter - a level most scientists consider safe.
"There is broad scientific consensus that the addition of fluoride to drinking water at optimal levels has significant oral health benefits and has no adverse health impacts," a Health Department spokeswoman said.
The city spends roughly $7 million a year adding fluoride to its water, but the Health Department believes taxpayers save millions more with improved dental health.
Safety isn't the only factor the city should consider, said John Doull, the University of Kansas emeritus professor of toxicology who was chairman of the National Academy of Sciences panel.
More people have access to fluoride from toothpaste and other sources today than they did in 1965, when the city started adding the mineral to our water, he said.
"It's been a long time since we've looked with scientific accuracy at whether this is still a public health benefit," Doull said. "There's no great evidence that it's producing harm [at low levels], but the question is: Does it really improve public health?"