PORTSMOUTH — The fight over community water fluoridation continued in Concord this week as opponents of a community notification bill clashed with supporting lobbyists at the Statehouse.
On Wednesday, members of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs subcommittee took up discussion on House Bill 312, legislation that would require municipalities to send notice to residents about the fluoridation of their drinking water.
The bill was voted inexpedient to legislate by members of the subcommittee, but must also go before the entire House committee for consideration.
Sponsored by Rep. Lars Christiansen, R-Hudson, and Rep. Kathy Souza, R-Manchester, the legislation would require “public water systems which provide fluoridation to place a warning on all billing statements against fluoride-treated water for infants under the age of 12 months.”
Anywhere the public water supply contains fluoride, like Portsmouth, warning notices would be posted on all water system billing statements.
Rep. Rich DiPentima, D-Portsmouth, was among those in attendance Wednesday.
DiPentima, who has been vocal locally on the issue of fluoridation, said the subcommittee voted 4-0 to kill the bill based on a variety of concerns.
“We didn’t totally disagree with the intent of the bill,” he said.
One major reason for voting the bill down in the subcommittee was due to the questions of whether it created an unfunded mandate for cities and towns with water departments.
Another issue raised involved the effectiveness of the legislation, because not all water customers receive a bill, he said.
DiPentima said another issue that arose was where the ultimate responsibility for notification belongs and if it should be up to doctors and dentists to educate their patients.
An issue that could have been resolved involved the language of the bill, but DiPentima said an amendment to the language would not have resolved the many other issues the subcommittee raised.
Also in attendance on Wednesday was Jim Williamson, executive director of the N.H. Dental Society.
Williamson said the society agrees it is important to educate people, but ultimately felt there is enough education in the public sector already.
“We supported the move making it inexpedient to legislate,” he said.
In addition, Williamson said the society felt it was also up to dentists and family physicians to give the information out to their patients.
“We wouldn’t have a problem putting something in the annual statement that goes out to water customers,” he said.
Stuart Cooper, campaign manager for The Fluoride Action Network, who attended the meeting, said his organization was the original momentum behind the bill in the first place.
Cooper said the local lobbying effort is all a part of a movement going on throughout the country.
“I feel like Rep. DiPentima and the N.H. Dental Society is irresponsibly promoting fluoridation without precaution,” he said.