A state Senate committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would require water companies to inform their customers of plans to fluoridate their water supplies and to forbid the purchase of the chemical additive from China.
State Sen. Dan Claitor said his Senate Bill 638 is about notification, not stopping fluoridation. The Baton Rouge Republican said each consumer should be able to make an informed choice about whether to drink the fluoridated water or just to use it for washing.
Adding the chemical fluoride to public water supplies reduces dental decay in the community, according to advocates of the practice, which includes the American Dental Association.
Opponents question whether the benefits of fluoride outweigh its toxic effects, which they say include risks to the brain, thyroid gland, bones and to infants.
The Senate Environmental Quality Committee recommended SB 638 to the full Senate without objection.
Baton Rouge lobbyist Randy Hayden represents Healthy Smiles Louisiana, which is a coalition of dentists, physicians and business leaders.
He said tying fluoridation to the health risks of Chinese drywall is designed to hinder future efforts to fluoridate water supplies in Louisiana.
“This will make it more difficult,” said Hayden, adding that Baton Rouge is one of the largest cities in the country that does not add fluoride to its public water supply.
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine agreed.
“It might create some real bureaucracies for the department that I don’t think is necessary or intended,” said Levine in a phone interview after the hearing.
If the legislation becomes law, Levine’s DHH would have to track the source of the fluoride from its source to ensure the chemical did not come from the People’s Republic of China, he said. Because the federal government doesn’t track the origins of fluoride, the state would have to create its own system, Levine said. The result likely would mean the state could not approve fluoridation projects, he said.
Levine said fluoride is heavy and expensive to transport, making the chemical processed in China too expensive for American water companies. Those public water systems in Louisiana that add fluoride use a chemical that was processed in the United States, he said.