Despite protests from opponents of the state’s fluoridation bill and the Las Vegas Valley Water District board’s own reservations, nearly a half million dollars was put aside Tuesday for the purchase of fluoride.
The district’s board of directors, which consists of all seven Clark County commissioners, unanimously agreed to spend $408,672 for a year’s worth of fluoride that will be injected into the valley’s water system beginning March 1.
Gov. Kenny Guinn signed the fluoridation bill during the 1999 legislative session on the condition that voters are given an opportunity to vote on the measure in November.
Commissioners, already irritated that the decision to fluoridate the county’s water was made at the state level, also were miffed the vote will take place eight months after the water is treated.
“This is really a joke,” said Commissioner Erin Kenny, who recommended that the state reconsider enacting the law in March.
And even though the county’s own attorneys warned the board that it could face criminal penalties if it refuses to fluoridate the water, the threat didn’t shield board members from opponents fervently opposed to the idea.
Ken Mahal, president of the Nevada Seniors Coalition, urged the board to fight the measure. He said Tuesday’s vote combined with the $143,000 already put toward preparing the system shows district officials’ indifference toward residents’ concerns.
“Fight this with attorneys rather than spend money on it and have it voted down,” Mahal said. “Just because they made a bill doesn’t mean it can’t be thrown out.”
Opponents of the bill believe that too much fluoride can poison the body, cause diseases and weaken the immune system.
Before granting the funds for the fluoride purchase, the board made sure that if the measure is rejected by voters the district would not be committed to the yearlong contract with the fluoridation company.
The board’s action Tuesday was applauded by supporters of the bill, who reiterated the importance of putting fluoride in the water to prevent tooth decay.
Dr. Bernard Feldman, residency director of the University of Nevada School of Nevada, said dental problems is the sixth most common reason children are brought to the emergency rooms.
Louise Helton, chairwoman of the Coalition for Citizens for Fluoride, said opponents of the measure simply don’t understand the magnitude of the tooth decay problem among Clark County’s youths.
She said it has become so serious that the Head Start organization, which provides food to children, actually has a menu for people without teeth.
“All these people worry about is finding their remote controls in the morning,” Helton said of the opponents. “This is an outright epidemic. Kids are coming to school with their teeth hurting, and they can’t learn.”
Helton also doubted that the measure would be voted down in November. She collected 5,000 signatures to submit to the Legislature and, she added, the measure will cost taxpayers less than 50 cents a year.