The state House should follow the Senate’s lead and approve a bill that would require Tennessee public utilities to provide notification if they intend to stop fluoridating their water systems. Fluoride is commonly added to water to reduce the risk of tooth decay, particularly in children.
In 2007, The Leaf-Chronicle reported on the fact that the Cunningham Utility District at the East Montgomery Water Treatment Plant had discontinued adding fluoride without informing its customers. Its board of directors decided to end the 46-year practice of fluoridating the water in January 2006 and cited several factors at the time:
A customer complaint, a study of the history of public water fluoridation, the possibility of over-fluoridation leading to teeth-staining in infants and children and the fact that fluoridation is not required by the Environmental Protection Agency or Tennessee’s Division of Water Supply. Fluoridation cost, however, apparently wasn’t a deciding factor.
In January 2008, the board voted to keep fluoride out of its water, saying it would not be added because there was a possible link between fluoride and cancer and because it is available in other public products.
Democratic Sen. Tim Barnes of Clarksville, who represents the 22nd District, said he read the original Leaf-Chronicle report and decided to introduce the notification bill in response. That measure, which passed 32-0 in the Senate, would require any public water system to give public notice in a general mailing before discontinuing fluoridation. It would also have to notify the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Health at least 10 days in advance.
In 2007, at least one dentist who treated children from the East Montgomery area reported more tooth decay with the loss of the fluoride in the water.
The parents of those children deserved to know the fluoride was no longer in the water so that they could add it to their personal treatment, if they so desired.
Barnes said his bill doesn’t make a “value judgment” on fluoride, “but it merely gives adequate notice so there is time to discuss both the pros and cons.”
This bill is a common-sense approach to the fluoridation issue. People have a right to know what is — and is not — in the water that they and their families are drinking.
Opinions in this space reflect a consensus of the discussion by The Leaf-Chronicle’s Editorial Board.