Law in place in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, New York, Missouri
Park Hills, Mo. — Missouri is only one of five states that has enacted an early notification law, and it came in handy when the community of Park Hills in the southeast part of the Show-Me State came close to having its community water fluoridation program terminated.
The city council had been discussing the possible end of fluoride use in the city’s water for months, and after listening to public input, reviewing petitions and hearing professional opinions, the resolution to cease the use of fluoride in the city’s water supply died for lack of motion during an October meeting.
An early notification law, which can be established through legislative action, is in place in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, New York and Missouri. The law generally requires water systems to provide advance notice to the public and state health officials of proposed changes to fluoridation programs, thereby giving the public greater opportunity to express concerns regarding the elimination of fluoridation.
“Before we had an early notification law, we’d find out after the fact,” said John Dane, D.D.S., Missouri state dental director.
Local dentists like Tonya Long, D.M.D., and Megann Scott, D.D.S., were part of the contingent that heard about the possible termination and joined community members who considered the notification a call to action.
“I feel that with Missouri having an early notification law, it allowed for much greater advocacy to take place in support of community water fluoridation,” said Dr. Long. “Without it, we would have had a very limited time to raise awareness and gain support. We were able to launch several petitions in addition to radio campaign ads, as well as collectively and individually speak with the city council members, the city administrator and the mayor on multiple occasions.”
The early notification law, Dr. Scott said, allowed her and her colleagues to educate the public, address concerns and voice the public health viewpoint.
“In our case, it allowed the opportunity to discuss with our patients’ parents the benefits that their children and they themselves were [receiving] from community fluoridation,” Dr. Scott said. “In our area, I was surprised to learn how many Park Hills residents did not even know that Park Hills is the only city in the county providing fluoride and are happy to hear it is available in their town.”
Leon Stanislav, D.D.S., chair of the ADA’s National Fluoridation Advisory Committee, was instrumental in getting his state of Tennessee to pass an early notification law.
“When fluoridation-adverse organizations started using the Internet a couple of decades ago, Tennessee saw an increase in rollback attempts in communities that had been fluoridated since the 1950s,” Dr. Stanislav said. “The Tennessee Dental Association and the Tennessee Department of Health found out about these actions after the fact in many cases. So in 2012 [the state] enacted a notification law, the first in the country to do so, which required a 30-day notice to the public consumer, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Tennessee Department of Health before any hearings or vote on discontinuing or adding fluoridation could take place.”
Dr. Stanislav said that while the law does not mean that fluoridation advocates could always avert rollback, it did mean that they were at the table and had the opportunity to address the concerns.
“This did significantly slow the rollback successes,” Dr. Stanislav said. “Public notice allowed people supportive of community water fluoridation to be present in person as a consumer and for coalitions to face the opposition. Many times the misinformation can be dispelled by individuals and groups more knowledgeable about the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation. I would encourage states consider this in their legislative agendas where rollbacks are on the rise.”
For more information on fluoride and ADA advocacy of community water fluoride, visit ADA.org/fluoride.
*Original article online at https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/november/missouri-town-averts-rollback-of-fluoridation