Water Industry News
House panel to consider fluoridation in water
|By Judith R. Tackett,
January 04, 2006
which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists
among the top 10 public health achievements of century, will become
a topic of conversation in Tennessee.
Proponents and opponents of water fluoridation are scheduled to face
each other before the state House Conservation and Environment
Committee Monday, Jan. 9.
Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville), who chairs the House Conservation and
Environment Committee, said he wants committee members to understand
the current regulations in the state regarding water fluoridation.
“What I have found is there are utility districts out there that
think there is a state mandate that they fluoridate, and that
doesn’t exist,” Odom said. “I want to make sure that everyone
knows the status of the law, the status of the regulatory process,
that this is clearly a local issue that should be decided locally by
the customers of water districts and so forth.”
The Department of Environment and Conservation is responsible for
advising local utility districts on how to fluoridate.
“I wanted to find out what we (the state) were doing and under
what authority we were doing this,” Odom said. “Apparently there
is no statutory or regulatory guidelines in the state for us doing
that, which I find kind of puzzling.”
Suzanne Hubbard, director for oral health services at the Tennessee
Department of Health, said Tennessee ranks fourth among all states
with 96 percent of the population having access to fluoridated
water. Only Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota have higher
percentages. Nationwide, an average of 67 percent of water supplies
“It reduces dental decay tremendously when we fluoridate at
optimum levels, which is one part per million,” Hubbard said,
adding fluoride actually occurs naturally in water. “So water
fluoridation is merely the adjustment of this naturally occurring
mineral in the water that has been found through years of research
to reduce decay by 20-40 percent in populations.”
Hubbard said communities save $38 in dental treatment costs for
every dollar spent to fluoridate water.
Hubbard said research has proven that oral health has a tremendous
prevention impact on illnesses such as cardiovascular disease,
diabetes, pre-term babies and babies born with a low birth weight.
Among the areas in Middle Tennessee that do not fluoridate water is
the Pleasant View Utility District.
Its general manager, John Anthony, said the decision not to
fluoridate the water was made because it was not required and it was
“You have to have a lot of apparatus to treat the fluoride in the
proper dosages,” Anthony said. “When we looked into it, we
determined that it didn’t improve the quality of the water and it
was expensive and fluoridation is potentially dangerous if you had a
malfunction in some of your equipment so we decided just not to do
Opponents nationwide claim that water fluoridation can cause
dangerous side effects such as bone fractures, arthritis, immune
system problems and other health issues.
The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of
Science, is currently reviewing all literature available on water
fluoridation and its effects and is expected to release results in