Texarkana citizens may be making fewer trips to the dentist in the near future, if city governments on both sides of the State Line decide to add fluoride to the drinking water.
The issue was originally raised by Texarkana, Texas, Ward 3 Council Member Christie Adams. Other members of the council have followed suit with the request.
“Apparently Texarkana water was fluoridated at one point,” said Ward 6 Council Member Bradley Hardin. “But for some reason it is not anymore, and after having the opportunity to visit with people in the dental profession and other parents and adults, I believe that it’s a topic that needs to be open to dialogue again.”
Accordingly, Hardin asked City Manager George Shackelford to begin preliminary plans to bring fluoridation to Texarkana.
“Apparently fluoridation was an issue on the Arkansas side back in the 80s, where I believe the issue was put to a popular vote and defeated,” said Shackelford. “I’ve met with Bill (King), and right now we’re going to try to get a brief history tracking this issue in the Texarkana area, and see what we can do from there.”
King, the executive director of Texarkana Water Utilities, said that it would be essential for both city governments to agree on fluoridation before the process could go any further, because of the nature of the cities’ shared water system.
“In 1986, the people of Texarkana, Ark., voted not to have fluoride in their water, but that was because the city opted to put that issue on the ballot,” said King. “If the issue comes up again, neither Texas nor Arkansas requires that the issue be a public vote … so it will be up to the city councils.”
Texarkana, Ark., City Manager Robert Wright said none of the city board members has raised the issue recently.
“We have pulled information from 1986 just to take a look at it, and we know that the Texas side is looking into the possibility of getting it (fluoride), but that’s it. There have been no requests to discuss the issue at board meetings or otherwise,” he said.
Presently, King is gathering information regarding fluoridation and what it will cost. He plans to present his information to both city managers.
“There is a possibility of getting grant money from the state,” said King, adding that most state and federal agencies and professional organizations support fluoridation. “When the Center for Disease Control was asked to list the top ten health advances in the United States, fluoridation was one of them …. both the Arkansas and Texas health departments support it … Texarkana is one of two Texas cities with a population greater than 20 percent that don’t have fluoridation … it’s really a widely accepted practice.”
Local dentist Neil Carmony agreed.
“I don’t know why our water isn’t fluoridated already,” he said. “I know when I was practicing in Kansas City, where the water was fluoridated, the prevalence of tooth decay was much lower there than it is here.”
However, Dr. James Presley, a member of Friends United for a Safe Environment, disagrees.
“More recent, long-range data have shown little or no difference in dental health between fluoridated and nonfluoridated communities,” said Presley, citing a 1998 study conducted in New York. The study revealed that the fluoridated community has twice the amount of dental fluorosis, which is damaged tooth tissue. “Fluoridation has created more problems than it has solved.”
Dr. Presley went on to add that fluoride is a toxic waste by-product from aluminum and phosphate fertilizer plants, and by putting it in drinking water would expose large populations to unnecessary health risks.
“Our officials and the public need to know what kind of risks are involved, or they may be seriously embarrassed … besides, even academic proponents of fluoride agree that though it is a decay fighter, it is strictly topical, meaning that it must touch the surface of the teeth. It has no role inside the body, so swallowing fluoridated water would be pointless.”
But Dr. Carmony believes that as long as the water is treated with the right levels of fluoride, it’s going to help kids develop stronger teeth.
“I really do think it will be a good thing, that is , if it’s done properly,” he said.
Actual costs of the initial startup including purchase and installation of necessary equipment, King said, would cost the city between $35,000-$60,000 per water treatment plant, thereafter costing anywhere from $25,000-$30,000 for chemicals and equipment maintenance.