When Chadron residents head to the polls Nov. 4, they will have to cast a ballot on whether or not the city should fluoridate its water supply.
A new Legislative bill approved during the last session requires cities and villages of over 1,000 residents to either fluoridate their water supplies or opt out of the law with a public vote.
Chadron voted against fluoridation in May 1978 but it remains to be seen if the outcome will be the same this time around.
The motive behind the requirement is an attempt to decrease instances of tooth decay, particularly in young children. Governor Dave Heineman vetoed the bill, calling it an unfunded mandate, but the Unicameral overrode him during the final hours of the session.
The American Dental Association endorses community water fluoridation, saying it is the most effective way to prevent tooth decay. The Center for Disease Control also supports fluoridation efforts.
There are some, however, who believe fluoridation should not be done on a community-wide level for various reasons. Dr. Arvid Carlsson of Sweden, the 2000 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, says individual differences in reactions to a medication such as fluoride should be weighed. One person may react differently to the substance, and therefore, it should be handled on an individualized basis rather than in a community-wide prescription.
A report by the Collaborative on Health and the Environments Learning and Development Disabilities released earlier this year cites studies that indicate ingesting too much fluoride could cause health problems. One study said too much of the medication can decrease thyroid hormone levels, and a Chinese study linked lower IQ levels to fluoridated water.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum standard for fluoride is 4 milligrams per liter. However, two years ago, the National Academy of Science found that amount can cause dental fluorosis n spots on the teeth – and weakened bones. The study also pointed out that a 20-40 percent decrease in tooth decay from fluoridation equals less than one tooth surface per person.
Opponents also say community fluoridation takes away an individual’s right to consent to medical treatment. They also argue that fluoride is more beneficial when it is applied directly to the teeth in the form of toothpaste than it is when ingested.
Supporters of fluoridation say the studies that discredit the effort are not generally accepted, and that no strong link is provided between various health problems and fluoride use. The ADA Web site lists dozens of studies that dispute links between fluoridation and things such as cancer, thyroid issues, heart and kidney disease and more.
Those against fluoridation also claim that in order to afford the process, many cities and villages get their supply of fluoride in the form of hydrofluorosilicic acid, a classified hazardous waste captured in the production of phosphate fertilizer. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a family practitioner who founded a natural health Web site, Mercola.com, says many of the studies lauding the benefits of fluoride are done on systems that use pharmaceutical grade fluoride and not the waste product that many cities use.
Local dentists all support the idea of community fluoridation, and Rushville and Gordon have fluoridated their water supplies for decades. Chadron’s water supply has naturally occurring fluoride, but not at the levels required by the new law. If voters decide to allow fluoridation, the city will have to adjust the level to meet Nebraska Health and Human guidelines, which list an allowable level of .8-1.5 parts per million.