For the third time in 30 years, voters in North Platte once again soundly rejected adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water.
Voters in North Platte rejected adding fluoride to the drinking water by opting out of a bill set by Nebraska lawmakers that required any city with a population of 1,000 or more to fluoride their water supply by June 1, 2010, unless the city’s voters voted it down.
North Platte voters overwhelmingly rejected adding fluoride to the water with 66 percent rejecting the idea. The fluoride issue went down in flames with 5,623 voters against it and 2,854 voters, 34 percent, in favor.
Voters in Sutherland also rejected fluoride. There were 319 votes, or 54 percent, for opting out of the fluoride program to 276 votes, or 46 percent, for adding fluoride.
It’s been more 10 years since North Platte residents last rejected adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water.
Adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water was last rejected May 13, 1998. And that was the second time they rejected it.
North Platte residents first discarded the idea the first time the issue was on the ballot in May, 1978.
Fluoride has never been added to North Platte water in the town’s history.
The goal of some state lawmakers with the legislative bill passed last year was to reduce tooth decay. Medicaid dental programs cost as much as 50 percent less in fluoridated communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Fluoridation opponents say research shows fluoride has been linked to health problems and doesn’t necessarily prevent tooth decay.
The city’s water already contains some naturally occurring fluoride, but only about half of what state standards require. Officials believe it could cost the city as much as $150,000 initially to fluoridate the water.
Those cities with enough natural-occurring fluoride wouldn’t have to add any.
More than 942,000 people, most of Nebraska’s population, are served by 65 public water systems that add fluoride to water. Forty-one systems are naturally fluoridated.
But 64 Nebraska communities with more than 1,000 people, including North Platte, don’t add fluoride or have enough naturally occurring fluoride.
There are 66 communities in Nebraska that have fluoride in their water supplies including Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Holdredge and Ogallala, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. There are an additional 41 communities that have beneficial levels of fluoride occurring naturally in their water supplies.
Today, two-thirds of U.S. public drinking water is fluoridated. Many municipalities still resist the practice, disbelieving the government’s assurances of safety.
No one argues the fact that fluoride, a natural element found in groundwater, protects tooth enamel. Since 1945, municipal systems serving 170 million Americans have added fluoride, mostly in the form of hydrofluorosilicic acid, to their water, and the number of cavities have been reduced nationally.
But now fluoride is added to most toothpastes on the market and because toothpaste is designed to be spit out, many people believe it’s a more efficient way to get fluoride on your teeth.
The debate over the positives and negatives of the addition of fluoride to drinking water has raged on for more than half a century. Surveys done by water companies across the United States have indicated an even split between opponents and supporters of the practice.
And for the third time in 30 years, North Platte residents decided once again to reject adding it to the drinking water.