Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation State Legislation

December 23rd, 2023 | Stuart Cooper, Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation State Legislation

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) is constantly working at every level of government (local, state, federal, judicial, and bureaucratic) to end this practice. We don’t always share everything with our full email list as it’s happening because we’re so focused on the task at hand, and we also don’t want our opposition to know our strategies. But rest assured that FAN is not just a leader in providing educational and scientific resources but also when it comes to advocacy.

There were a number of bills dealing with water fluoridation in our state legislatures this past year, including some big battles won and progress made on our side. Here is our update.

Notification Legislation

As we explained in our bulletin published on the 13th, fluoridation statistics from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) show that we’re winning. Thanks in large part to our efforts, the percentage of the population drinking fluoridated water continues to decrease, as does the number of communities adjusting their fluoride levels. In response to this, the proponents of fluoridation have been introducing bills in state legislatures that require notification of the public and state health agencies at least 90 days prior to any local decisions or votes to end the practice. If the bills were limited to just notifying the public, and doing so whenever there is any change to fluoridation (initiating or cessation), we would support these efforts. Unfortunately, as you will see below, the pro-fluoride lobby cares only about promoting the practice and creating obstacles for those who oppose it.

In Washington State, proponents introduced HB1251, which as originally written, would have 1) codified six baseless pro-fluoridation talking points into state law; 2) required any community considering just an end to fluoridation to first contact public health agencies and receive pro-fluoridation information; 3) only after receiving the pro-fluoridation information could a community then start the 90-day clock to notify the public; 4) required that the notice to the public include exclusively the pro-fluoridation talking points given to them by state health agencies; and 5) required a continuation of fluoridation if any of these procedures were not met.

The Fluoride Action Network quickly organized our local leaders and professionals in Washington, holding regular meetings and generating many constituent emails in opposition to the bill as written. Our local contacts and FAN leaders then provided testimony at the public hearing in the House. The bill’s sponsors included many members of leadership, including the majority leader, so we knew that killing the bill would be nearly impossible, so we took a different approach.

After the public hearing, our team reached out to various legislators to educate them individually. We found a champion on the committee and worked with her to bring an amendment in committee and on the floor that would completely strip away all of the pro-fluoridation nonsense from the bill. This strategy was 100% effective, and we turned a bad bill into something that would benefit our side. We amended the text to remove the pro-fluoridation talking points, to remove notification of public health agencies, to remove the requirement of disseminating pro-fluoridation info to voters, and required public notification not only when ending fluoridation but also when trying to initiate the practice.

There has been a lot of activity in recent years in the Washington legislature due to Delta Dental’s lobbying activities. Last year we were able to defeat a bill mandating that all communities throughout the state conduct an expensive cost and construction estimate for initiating fluoridation.

The pro-fluoridation lobby also introduced a bill in Missouri this session, which was intended to amend their current notification law. A few years ago, they introduced a bill written as poorly as the one I just mentioned in Washington, but FAN was able to have that amended in the same way, stripping it of the ridiculous requirements that the proponents wanted. This session, they introduced HB1040 to try to amend the law that requires public notification for any change to fluoridation status to first require notification of public health agencies and a requirement to seek and receive pro-fluoridation talking points.

The purpose of these bills is obvious. Public health agencies have partnered with the dental lobby, so by notifying them, they can notify the various dental interests and start putting pressure on decision makers before the public is even aware of the impending decision on fluoridation.

Fortunately, we opposed these efforts and the bill was never taken up by the Senate. That said, it has been reintroduced again for the 2024 legislative session.

Bills Studying Neurotoxicity

A large volume of government-funded and published research now links exposure to low levels of fluoride to brain impairment in children. This has inspired legislative action in various states, including bills to prohibit the practice (see below) and bills to study fluoride neurotoxicity. This session, two bills were introduced in two different states looking to create study committees on the issue.

In North Carolina a bill was introduced with a focus on “water safety,” with a primary focus on PFAs and other contaminants. But included in this bill was the following text:

“The Commission for Public Health shall perform a review of the National Toxicity Program’s September 2022 draft report titled “Monograph on the State of the Science Concerning Fluoride Exposure and Neurodevelopmental and Cognitive Health Effects: A Systematic Review,” as well as the studies reviewed in the report, and any other studies the Commission finds relevant to an assessment of the association between fluoride exposure and IQ in children.

Based on this review, the Commission shall determine whether sufficient evidence exists for a link between fluoride in the public water supply and cognitive decline or any other neurological detriment in children.

SECTION 3.(b) The Commission shall make a report to the General Assembly on or before February 1, 2024, of its findings and recommendations, including a recommendation on whether the current standard for fluoride established in the Commission’s rules (i) is protective of public health and (ii) should be lowered. If the Commission makes the determination regarding a link between fluoride in public water supplies and neurological impacts in children as described in subsection (a) of this section, then the Commission shall direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a list of the private and public water utilities in the State, their fluoride concentration, the number of children or households to which they provide water, and any other information that it deems pertinent. The Department shall include with the list a ranking of the risk to children of the water supplied by each utility.”

This bill is still in committee, and FAN will be working to gather as much support as possible for it in the 2024 legislative session.

In New Hampshire, we put together a bi-partisan team of sponsors to introduce HB217, which would have created a legislative study committee to look exclusively at the government data and peer-reviewed research on potential side-effects from water fluoridation. This bill passed almost unanimously out of the House committee, with two physician members of the committee saying they were shocked at the studies they saw when conducting their own literature search on PubMed.

The bill was then passed by unanimous voice vote on the House floor and went to the Senate Health committee. Below is video from the public hearing in the Senate. The hearing starts at the 1:50:00 mark, and you can see my testimony at the 2:19:10 mark. I would urge you to watch as much as you can, to see what our opponents had to say about the bill. Their testimony, in my opinion, was unethical and embarrassing. Unfortunately, the Senate is more beholden to lobbyist relationships with Senators and large campaign contributions from the Dental Society and their lobbyists. Despite our success in the House, the Senate committee voted 4-1 to kill our study bill, essentially saying, “we trust the CDC to study the side-effects and tell legislators what to do.”

The silver lining is we now know we can get a bill passed out of any House committee and on the floor. We also now have new champions in the State Senate who support our efforts, so we’ve continued to build momentum for future action in this state.

Bills Prohibiting Fluoridation

Last year, we were able to get a bill prohibiting fluoridation passed almost unanimously out of a House Committee in the New Hampshire legislature. While this bill was eventually tabled on the floor with many other bills due to an impending snowstorm and legislative deadline, it did inspire action this session in two other states. It also allowed us to find many new champions, including Senators in New Hampshire, making future efforts more likely to succeed.

Bills were introduced in Massachusetts (H827 & S460) and Oklahoma  (SB165) that, if passed, would make adding fluoridation chemicals to public water supplies illegal throughout both states. This is a growing trend that we love to see, and it is no doubt inspired by all of the neurotoxicity research that has recently been conducted and published.

Both of these bills are still alive, and FAN and our local contacts are continuing to use the opportunity to educate legislators going into the second year of the biannual sessions for these legislatures. We also expect the introduction of new bills in new states. Our hope is to have them ready and available for when we have a court ruling in our favor, hopefully in early 2024.

Statewide Mandate Legislation

Two bills attempting to pass new statewide fluoridation mandates were introduced this past session by our opponents in two different states. The first was in New Jersey (A3115), and while we were able to keep it from even getting a public hearing, it can still be acted upon this upcoming legislative session, so we must remain vigilant. We’re currently working with a coalition that includes the NJ Water Works Association, NJ Municipal Association, and a variety of private water companies that view fluoridation chemicals as “pollution” they don’t want to add to their customers’ drinking water.

The second was in Hawaii (SB134) where there is tremendous local organizing in opposition to fluoridation from water companies, residents, and scientific experts. Together, we were able to defeat this bill before it ever had a public hearing. We believe that the dental lobby will reintroduce another bill this session, so we’ll remain vigilant in both Hawaii and New Jersey, helping to keep many millions of residents free from forced fluoridation in 2024 and beyond.

Help Us Maintain This Momentum

In 2024, we are expecting many more legislative battles, including additional bills to prohibit fluoridation and overturn state mandates in new states. We can’t get into the details today because our opponents will read this bulletin as well, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that the tide has shifted and state legislators are discovering the truth about fluoridation, giving our side momentum going into the 2024 legislative sessions. But we need your help to maintain our progress, especially as we enter this critical phase with an impending court ruling and the publication of the NTP report linking low levels of fluoride exposure to significant cognitive impairment in children! Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to FAN today.

Thank you,

Stuart Cooper, Executive Director, Fluoride Action Network