U.S. Water News Online
LITTLE ROCK -- A plan from Rep. Tommy Roebuck that would
mandate all of Arkansas' public water supplies to be supplemented
with fluoride could draw debate in the coming legislative session.
Roebuck, an Arkadelphia Democrat, has said he could introduce the
bill, but he would face opponents who believe that fluoride in water
About 62 percent of Arkansans on public water systems currently
receive fluoridated water. Many public water systems around the
country have been fluoridating their supply for more than half a
century because it helps fight tooth decay. Fluoride is the active
ingredient in toothpaste.
But while the Arkansas Health Department points to studies that
show fluoride reducing decay by up to 60 percent in baby teeth and up
to 35 percent in adult teeth, opponents say the difference is too
slight to risk possible adverse effects of fluoride.
"Our take on it is if you want fluoride, go to the dentist and get
fluoride," said Sherry Johnson of Waldron, president of the Arkansas
Health Freedom Coalition.
J. William Hirzy, senior vice president of the union representing
professionals at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, testified
before a legislative committee in Little Rock this month that
fluoride has been linked to weakened bones, cancer, brain structure
damage, kidney damage, hyperactivity and thyroid problems.
But Dr. Lynn Mouden, director of the Health Department's Office of
Oral Health, said that's a selective reading of the studies on
fluoride. It comes from the naturally occurring element fluorine and
is harmless to humans, Mouden said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls
fluoridated drinking water one of the 10 greatest public health
achievements of the 20th century, but now, in the 21st century, fear
of fluoride persists.
"My children's teeth, they can all fall out. I would rather them
have dentures than have the possibility of something going wrong,"
said Crystal Harvey, a Hot Springs cosmetologist who has fought for
the last 15 years to keep fluoride out of the local water supply.
The debate over fluoride was similar in the mid-20th century and
opponents of fluoride were satirized in the 1965 Peter Sellers movie
"Dr. Strangelove." In the film, a crazy general who tries to unleash
nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union theorizes that fluoride in the
water is a Communist plot.
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