Twenty-nine senators indicated Tuesday they trusted the information on fluoridated water supplies with a first-round vote to approve the mandatory treatment of water in Nebraska cities or villages over 1,000 population.
The bill (LB245) that advanced on a 29-4 vote would offer an opt-out clause for city residents to vote on the issue in their cities — either by initiative petition or by a vote of the city council or village board to place it on the ballot.
Sixty-four of the affected communities do not fluoridate their water.
Sen. Joel Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, reiterated his position — and that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that fluoridation is a safe, effective way to prevent tooth decay. The past five Surgeons General have supported it and encouraged communities to fluoridate their water.
Fluoride helps to reverse or inhibit the demineralization process that occurs when a person eats sugar or refined carbohydrates that interact with bacteria in the mouth to produce acid. That acid removes minerals from the tooth surface, and after a while, a cavity can form.
Omaha Sen. Don Preister continued to express his concern Tuesday that fluoride could be harmful to children because no one knows the amount they are ingesting from water and other sources.
“I’m at least one voice, and as long as I have one voice, I’m going to be speaking out for the kids,” Preister said.
Johnson said every Legislature needs a Sen. Preister who will question what is best for the environment and the people in that environment.
Senators defeated an attempt to tack on to the bill an amendment that would have allowed city councils and village boards to make the decision on fluoridation rather than sending it to a vote of the people.
Johnson told senators Monday that the Nebraska Mission of Mercy and the Nebraska Dental Association held free dental clinics in three communities — North Platte, Norfolk and Grand Island — in the past three years that did not have fluoride in the water. Dental workers saw more than 4,000 patients in those cities and provided more than $1.5 million in free dental care.
Much of that work, Johnson said, could have been avoided with fluoridated water.
“Do the right thing for youth throughout the state and those of us who are a little bit older,” he told senators.
The cost to add fluoride to water, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, is about $5,000 per city treatment point. Annual operation and maintenance is about 10 percent of the capital cost.
Towns without fluoride
Unfluoridated communities in Nebraska with more than 1,000 population:
Ainsworth, Alma, Arapahoe, Ashland, Atkinson, Aurora, Battle Creek, Bayard, Beatrice, Beaver Lake, Bridgeport, Broken Bow, Burwell, Central City, Chadron, Cozad, Crete, Dakota City, David City, Eagle, Friend, Geneva, Gibbon, Gothenburg, Grand Island, Gretna, Hastings, Hebron, Kimball, Lancaster County RWD #1, Lexington, Madison, Milford, Mitchell, Norfolk, North Bend, North Platte, Ord, Pawnee City, Pierce, Plainview, Ravenna, Schuyler, Scottsbluff, Seward, Shelton, Sidney, St. Paul, Stanton, Stromsburg, Sutherland, Sutton, Tekamah, Terrytown, Valentine, Wahoo, Wakefield, Weeping Water, Wilber, Wisner, Wood River, Wymore, York, Yutan
– Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services