LAFAYETTE — The City-Parish Council voted Tuesday to urge the Acadiana legislative delegation to seek repeal of a 2008 state law that would require Lafayette and other cities with populations over 5,000 to start water fluoridation programs.
The council’s discussion of the issue focused less on the pros and cons of fluoridation, which aims to improve dental health in a community, and more on the cost.
The bill for Lafayette to operate a fluoridation program would be about $530,000 a year, a cost that would likely be reflected in residents’ water bills, according to figures from Lafayette Utilities System.
“This has nothing to do, in my opinion, with the validation of fluoride or the validation of the other opinion,” Councilman Don Bertrand said.
He said the decision on such a program should be made by the citizens of Lafayette.
“Every time Baton Rouge decides what the community needs, they send us a bill,” Bertrand said.
The new state law does not require a city to begin a fluoridation program until the state has identified funding for fluoridation equipment.
The state would also fund the cost of the fluoride and other materials needed for the program for at least six months before the city must assume responsibility.
“If this is so important for the state, why doesn’t the state pay for it?” council Chairman Purvis Morrison said.
Councilman William Theriot said he felt a fluoridation program would essentially pass on the cost of dental care for people not taking personal responsibility for their own teeth.
“We’re leaving out two primary words here: accountability and responsibility,” Theriot said. “There are a number of people here who are going to be paying for those not accountable and responsible to maintain their health.”
Three dentists spoke in favor of the fluoridation program, saying fluoridated water is a boon to public health and would result in substantial savings to taxpayers in the future as fewer people tap government health programs for major dental work.
“We can save a ton of money,” said John Taylor, a dentist from Crowley.
“In non-fluoridation areas of Louisiana, we spend three times as much hospitalizing children with rampant tooth decay than in areas with fluoridation.”
Two people spoke against the fluoridation program, including Paul Connett, a retired chemistry professor who heads the Fluoride Action Network.
Connett told the council that studies have found ill health effects from fluoridated water.
Taylor said water fluoridation has been endorsed and found safe by a wide range of government health agencies, as well as the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association.
The council voted 8-1 to urge the Acadian delegation to repeal the state’s fluoridation law, with Councilman Keith Patin casting the dissenting vote.
In other business, the council voted against approving a new city-parish law that would make it a misdemeanor to interfere with the duties of city-parish employees, consultants, contractor and sub-contractors in parish.
Council members expressed concern that the law was too broad and that most types of interference are already covered by existing laws.