Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation debate revived

Source: The Advertiser | April 20th, 2009 | By Claire Taylor

Fluoridating public drinking water is a controversial and expensive undertaking.

Just the equipment to ready Lafayette Utilities System for fluoridation will cost $654,200. It will cost another $530,000 a year to operate the system once fluoridation is added, Don Broussard, water operations manager, said.

Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Purvis Morrison has drafted a resolution for consideration by the Council and Lafayette Public Utilities Authority asking the Acadiana legislative delegation to repeal the state law mandating fluoridation.

The state Legislature adopted a bill in 2008 and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law Act 761 requiring fluoridation of drinking water by 26 public water suppliers that serve 5,000 or more customers in Louisiana.

The law puts the burden of paying for the equipment on the state, while local water suppliers like LUS would have to cover the cost of chemicals and operations after six months, LUS Director Terry Huval said.

“This will be another burden on the taxpayers,” Morrison said.

Whether the added cost of fluoridation would require rate increases, Huval could not say.

“It certainly puts pressure on that,” he said.

LUS will need new tanks to store the fluoride, as well as pumps, and monitoring equipment at four sites, Broussard said.

The fluoride project is not currently funded “but we hope that funding may come from the stimulus package or will be appropriated during the legislative session,” said Jolie Adams, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals. The funding also could come from federal sources or a private foundation, she said.

Some of the money from a state-based oral health disease prevention grant will be used to hire a full-time fluoridation engineer to support fluoridation efforts in Louisiana, Adams said.

About 60 percent of the United States population already receives fluoridated public water. In Louisiana, Shreveport, New Orleans and Lake Charles already fluoridate their water, Broussard said.

But the process is a controversial one. Dentists and some other health professionals support fluoridated public drinking water for those who cannot afford to go to the dentist or are not aware of proper dental hygiene.

While rare, there are cases of children who have died from untreated tooth decay because infections in the teeth can be carried to the brain and other parts of the body.

Others oppose fluoridation efforts, saying ingestion of too much fluoride may lead to thyroid, dental and bone problems.

Residents who want to hear more about the cons of fluoridation may attend a free presentation by Paul Connett, executive director of the Fluoride Action Network at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Hamilton Hall on the UL campus, 611 McKinley St., across from the Student Union.