Opponents knocked fluoride as poison to humans and forest creatures alike Monday as they urged legislators to reject efforts to make the chemical a mandatory addition to community drinking water in Arkansas.
Rep. Tommy Roebuck, D-Arkadelphia, says fluoridation is proven to further dental health, especially among children. He is considering legislation for the upcoming session to mandate fluoridated water.
“I’ve seen the value of fluoridated water,” Roebuck, a dentist, said. “You have much less (tooth) decay. It’s the best way that we have to improve oral health not just for kids but for adults and even those long-term care patients.”
Supporters extolled the virtues of fluoridation in a summer meeting before the interim House and Senate Public Education, Welfare and Labor Committee. Opponents made their pitch Monday, decrying the ingestion of fluoride as a health hazard with little proven benefit to dental health.
The committee did not take a position Monday.
J. William Hirzy, a federal Environmental Protection Agency chemist and vice president of a union that represents EPA professions at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, cited studies that suggest “equivocal evidence” of links between industrial-grade acid involved in fluoridation and cancer, impaired kidney function, thyroid problems, neurotoxicity and other impairments.
Fluoride proponents “want a medicine to be ingested by everybody for their entire life, regardless of their age, regardless of their medical history and with no dose control whatsoever,” Hirzy said. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be mandating this.”
James Presley, a medical writer from Texarkana, said much of the fluoride used in community water systems is a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer manufacturing. He accused fluoridation proponents of supporting a billion-dollar business that he charged is essentially a waste disposal vehicle for the industry.
Lee Standing Bear Moore of Hot Springs said fluoridation threatens man and nature alike.
“When you fluoridate our water by force you’re not just fluoridating our children and our grandmothers, you are fluoridating all the other creatures of the world,” Moore said. “You can draw a line in the sand today by stopping this idiocy of playing into the hands of people wishing to make more money.”
Billy Tarply, executive director of the Arkansas State Dental Association, said the organization supports the American Dental Association’s endorsement of fluoridation for dental health.
Roebuck said about half of Arkansas’ 2.7 million people drink fluoridated water every day but that he had not decided whether to pursue legislation that would set a city population threshold for making fluoridation mandatory for water systems.