A new bill will hit the South Dakota Senate Local Government Committee on Monday that would take away the state’s mandate for adding fluoride to drinking water.
Since the 1970s, state and federal regulations made it mandatory to increase the level of fluoride in drinking water after research showed its benefits to preventing tooth decay.
But after a few decades on the books, some South Dakota state legislators say its time to ask new questions.
All water contains some level of fluoride.
“It’s naturally occurring in all waters but it varies depending on the water source,” said Sioux Falls Dentist Anne Pillar.
Decades ago health officials decided to set a standard level.
“Back then they told us you will have 1.1 parts per million gallons of fluoride in your water, well naturally we have .4 so they’ve tripled the amount of fluoride that we put in our water,” said South Dakota Representative Manny Steele.
That decision was based on years of research from the medical and dental community.
“There have been nearly 70 years of research and practical experience showing that fluoride in our water is not only safe, but it drastically reduces dental decay in adults and children,” said Pillar.
But the South Dakota lawmakers behind the bill say it’s time to have another conversation about the mandate.
“We’re waving a flag out there saying hey, should we do something about this, are we actually getting more fluoride than what a person should really have,” said Steele.
Representative Steele says it’s also about giving local governments the chance to ask those questions and discern the costs for themselves.
“What does this cost us? Is the benefit that we’re getting, can that justify the cost that we’re getting the tax payer for?” said Steele.
The dental community says the small costs far out-weigh the potential consequences without it.
‘The cost to the individual tax payer would be 50 cents to 3 dollars per year and if you think of that in relative costs of dental care it could save you hundreds of dollars per year in dental bills,” said Pillar.
The current state mandate only applies to cities of 500 or more, so several rural communities in the state do not have the added fluoride in their water system. Pillar says people in those communities do see an increase in cavities and tooth decay.