U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- One state senator wants to help balance
the state budget by using chemicals.
As lawmakers wrestle with a $673 million budget shortfall, Sen.
Jim Jensen of Omaha is proposing that all Nebraska cities and towns
with more than 1,000 residents be required to fluoridate their water.
The hope is that fluoridating water in more cities will reduce
tooth decay and thus trim dental costs paid annually by Medicaid, the
state's health-insurance program for the poor and disabled
``Without a doubt, across the nation as well as here in Nebraska,
there has been a tremendous lessening of the number of cavities that
children have when they use fluoride,'' Jensen said. ``It works.''
Fluoride, which is known to stop tooth decay, has been added to
water in thousands of U.S. cities since the 1950s.
More than 170 million people, or 62 percent of the nation's
population, drink water with fluoride.
Jensen, chairman of the Legislature's Health and Human Services
Committee, said that for every dollar spent to fluoridate water, the
state saves an estimated $50 in Medicaid costs.
The state spent $25 million in Medicaid funds last year on dental
Jensen said it costs 20 cents to 50 cents a year per person to add
fluoride to a city's water supply, depending on the size of the
Jensen's bill (LB473) would even require cities where voters have
rejected water fluoridation to treat their water.
According to state records, 66 cities and villages, including
Grand Island, Beatrice, Hastings, Scottsbluff and Norfolk, do not
fluoridate their water.
Several studies have said that children who drink water with
fluoride have 20 percent to 40 percent fewer cavities. Adults who
drink fluoridated water have 15 percent to 35 percent fewer cavities.
In communities that once fluoridated and have since stopped, tooth
decay has gone up, studies show.
The Environmental Protection Agency, American Dental Association
and most public-health agencies back fluoridation as the best way to
prevent cavities in the teeth of growing children.
But fluoride has its detractors.
Foes of fluoridation have long resented what they call the mass
medication of the public by the government. They are now armed with
studies that say fluoride is not that effective and could be a health
threat if ingested long enough.
Some studies have suggested that fluoride can cause cancer or make
Critics say hydrofluosilicic acid, the type of fluoride commonly
added to water, is harvested from smokestack scrubbers at plants that
produce phosphate fertilizer and contain traces of mercury, lead and
The arguments have left many officials searching through piles of
In the 1950s, some people went as far as to suggest that
fluoridation was a Communist plot to turn the United States into a
nation of ``zombies.''
Meanwhile, a group of York residents has circulated petitions
against efforts to fluoridate York's drinking water. The York City
Council voted last summer to fluoridate the city's water.
Voters is several communities, including Grand Island and Norfolk,
have rejected adding fluoride to their water supplies.
``The question is `Why?' `` said Rev. Arin Hess of Norfolk, who
testified against the measure. ``Are we 100 percent sure that
fluoride is safe?''
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