A proposal to mandate fluoridation of most water supplies in the state was effectively killed this week when the Legislature’s Public Health committee decided not to consider it any further this session.
The bill, opposed by many people concerned about the health effects of fluoride, was put into “study,” a move used to end discussion.
“For all intents and purposes, it means it’s not likely to move forward this session,” said Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, co-chairman of the Public Health panel.
Natick chemist Myron Coplan, whose research found that children in fluoridated communities are at risk for excess levels of lead in their blood, said the move is good news for fluoridation opponents.
“From what I know about the Legislature, that’s the offhanded way of saying, ’We don’t want to talk about it anymore,’” Coplan said.
The unanimous vote to table the statewide fluoridation proposal was not surprising. In December, the measure’s leading proponent in the Senate, Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton, said research linking fluoridated water to bone cancer and other problems had convinced her that lawmakers should not vote on the proposal until a study is performed.
Putting a bill into study does not actually require anyone to look at the proposal again, unless they take an action like forming a commission to examine the issue.
But Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, co-chairwoman of the Public Health committee, said the bill may not be dead yet.
“It’s not necessarily a black hole. We can take it out of study,” she said.
Fargo said she has no worries about the health impacts of fluoride. But she said the committee was concerned about taking control over fluoridation away from communities, and a provision in the bill that would require the state to reimburse cities and towns for fluoride costs.
Resor’s bill would require fluoridation of any municipal water supply that serves at least 5,000 people.
Currently, more than one-third of Massachusetts cities and towns have fluoridated drinking water, including all of those served by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.