Legislative action on a bill that would give Tennesseans the opportunity to vote on fluoridating community water statewide has been deferred until Tuesday.
District 90 State Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, brought forth the bill that, if passed, would allow the public to vote on the controversial issue. District 57 State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, is outspokenly against the mandatory fluoridation of water and said that she spoke with DeBerry to share concerns just before the decision was made to defer.
“Fluoridation of water is believed to affect minorities much more adversely than it does everybody else. They tend to absorb it into their bones much quicker than everybody else. He is very concerned about his community,” she said. “I do not like water fluoridation because of the studies I have done.”
Lynn said that the federal maximum led for water is zero parts per million and the maximum arsenic for water is zero parts per million – something that would not be followed if fluoride is added to the water supply.
“Fluoride has by-products in it that violates state law. Arsenic in fluoride is 6 parts per million and led is 1 part per million. Those are contaminants that go above the federal maximum in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fluoride can go up to 4 parts per million,” she said.
Lynn noted that while many dentists are in favor of water fluoridation, she fears that it would hurt the general public more than it would help them.
“There is no telling how much fluoride we are exposed to. Too much and you end up with fluorosis. Forty-three percent of kids have fluorosis. Too much fluoride displaces the calcium and makes teeth brittle,” she said.
The City of Lebanon discontinued water fluoridation in 2007. Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said the decision was made to stop adding fluoride to water after equipment broke down.
“It was going to be about $100,000 to replace and we had employees adding it by hand. It was not the safe way to do it and we were concerned for the safety of our employees and the city,” he said. “There are people who are on both sides of the fence about this – who see a good and a bad.”
The Water & Wastewater Authority of Wilson County currently purchases water from the City of Lebanon.
Water & Wastewater Authority Office Manager Robert Boyd said that on occasion they will get questions about the lack of fluoride in water. “A lot of times they will have moved from somewhere that does have fluoridated water and are just curious – but I haven’t heard anything lately,” he said, explaining that water fluoridation differs by utility district in Wilson County.
West Wilson Utility District does fluoridate its water, which comes from the Cumberland River, said Plant Manager Mike Patton. “The reason we still do that is because our General Manager Fred Weston feels that it is what the majority of our customers still want,” he explained, clarifying that 4 parts of fluoride per million is a “secondary standard.”
“Right now .75 parts per million is what the state recommends. On a monthly average we can’t feed over 1.30 parts per million. Overfeeding is never a problem.”
Watertown Water Superintendent Randy Gwaltney said that they do not fluoridate their water, which is derived from wells. A representative of LaGuardo Utility District said that at present time their water is purchased from the City of Lebanon and West Wilson Utility District.