According to Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in an opinion issued in July, Act 197 of 2011, mandating that fluoride be added to drinking water, will stand.
And on the national front, the Environmental Protection Agency has denied a petition to change the source of fluoride in drinking water.
State Rep. Denny Altes of Fort Smith requested an opinion on whether Act 197, signed by Gov. Mike Beebe in 2011, was legal on two fronts.
The first is that the law was not passed with a super majority, and the second is that the state overruled local ordinances by passing it.
Altes noted the law was passed by 25 Senators and 56 House members.
“This is not a super majority in either chamber,” he wrote. “… At least two cities in Arkansas have voted against the addition of fluoride in the water supply.”
In the past, Eureka Springs and Hot Springs had voted down fluoridating the water by referendum.
McDaniel said the General Assembly legally passed Act 197 because, under state law, a two-thirds vote is only required “when it seeks to amend or repeal a statewide initiated act.”
He also added that the state constitution “expressly provides that cities cannot pass ordinances that conflict with state law” and state law “shall have the effect of repealing any local legislation which is in conflict therewith,” so the Act stands.
This week the EPA denied a petition to ban the use of hydrofluorosilic acid in fluoridated water systems, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and to use pharmaceutical-grade fluoride instead. While the EPA does not regulate water additives, it does regulate substances under the TSCA if a substance poses “unreasonable risk.”
The petition was brought in May by Dr. William Hirzy, former senior vice-president of EPA’s Headquarters Union, and colleagues, based on a study of lung and bladder cancers associated with arsenic present in HFSA, along with other health effects from lead and radionuclides. The researchers postulated that arsenic was associated with more than 300 of these cancer cases each year, costing billions of dollars in cancer treatment that could be avoided by water systems using pharmaceutical grade fluoride instead. He also noted that while this grade of fluoride is costly, it is less expensive than cancer treatment.
EPA denied Hirzy’s petition based on his miscalculation of cancer rates, which Hirzy acknowledged. The cancer cases actually occurred over a 70-year span rather than yearly, making them about three to four cases per year.
Hirzy acknowledged the error.
“I’m embarrassed to realize I made a mistake,” he told livescience.com.
That is not to say there are no concerns about using HFSA to fluoridate water, said Jeff Green, national director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, based in San Diego, Calif.
“While it is true that the petition erred in its projections, which intended to provide comparative cost savings, this does not absolve the EPA from disregarding the additional incidence of lung and bladder cancers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the petitioners’ error allows the EPA to make egregious distortions of the increased incidence and significance of lung and bladder cancers in their own calculations — distortions that will be more difficult to address without diversion to Hirzy’s error to wade through.”
He said there is already established scientific evidence to support the fact that even the presence of “allowable” amounts of arsenic can contribute enough to result in an additional one in every 1,500 lung or bladder cancer cases over a lifetime.
“Whether the actual incidence ends up being one in 1,500, or 2,500, or 5,000, or even 10,000 over a lifetime, it is still not okay,” he said.
The form of fluoride used has not been mandated by the state Health Department, and most water systems use HFSA.
René Fonseca, business manager and water plant operator at Carroll-Boone Water District, had been looking at using sodium fluoride, based on Hirzy’s study. With the revelation of Hirzy’s error, the cost would be “prohibitive and not much difference” in terms of health risk compared to HFSA, he said.
Fonseca said he is committed to following state law and is continuing to research manufacturers and distributors who can provide a fluoride product that meets the requirements and standards of NSF 60, which sets limits on contaminants.
“The board has voted to move forward and sign a contract with Delta Dental. Expected completion of facilities should be around October 2014,” he said. “Our inquiries continue to go out for product selection. We will pick the best and safest product for our citizens that conform to all laws under NSF 60 product certification.”