Fluoride pro and con: Lawmakers hear the debate

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Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, left, and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, testifying on potential legislation to give local governments control over tobacco marketing and sales.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) –  Passionate advocates for and against adding fluoride to tap water testified Tuesday before lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government.

For decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended safe amounts of fluoride be added to tap water to prevent tooth decay. State regulations require water to be fluoridated in most water districts across the state.

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Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, opened the discussion on giving local governments control over water fluoridation.

Although he has concerns about fluoridation, West said he isn’t “anti-dental care” and that the state could work on ways to enhance dental care in Kentucky, especially in the eastern part of the state where dental issues are more prevalent.

Cindi Baston, a mother and registered nurse, then shared how she believes fluoride in drinking water has negatively impacted her family.

“My sister was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is a concern for ingesting fluoride,” Baston said. “And her physician asked her to filter it out of her water.”

Baston also said her daughter has experienced dental fluorosis, which is a condition that causes changes in the tooth enamel due to consumption of fluoride during a child’s teeth-forming years.

Dr. John Kall, a Louisville dentist and a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, also spoke in favor of giving local governments the power to remove fluoride from drinking water.

“In my opinion, and from my perspective even as a dentist, the core issue here is about freedom of choice, informed consent and whether our state government has the right to put the brains of my current and future grandchildren at an increased risk of harm,” Kall said.

Kall said peer-reviewed research from medical journals shows fluoride in tap water results in loss of IQ, increased levels of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and increased thyroid issues.

Dr. Darren Greenwell, a Radcliff dentist and president of the Kentucky Dental Association, disagreed.

“Fluoridation has been the second, single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay,” Greenwell said. “… I have seen on a daily basis the devastation of tooth decay in my patients, children, adults.”

Greenwell argued that there is also “good” science showing fluoridation is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay. He also said when fluoride was removed from tap water in Juneau, Alaska, the city saw an increase the amount of Medicaid dollars spent on repairing children’s teeth in the aftermath.

On the topic of local government control and public health, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, testified in favor of giving local governments more control over tobacco sales and marketing.

“I believe that allowing local control of the marketing and the sales of tobacco products in Kentucky is the next logical, cost free step for Kentucky to reduce tobacco-related illnesses and the associate healthcare expenses as well as the business productivity and losses in the Commonwealth,” Moser said.

During her presentation, Moser cited statistics that show Kentucky ranks high in smoking-related illnesses.

“These smoking-related health issues are very expensive in our state,” Moser said. “The annual cost of healthcare related to smoking-related illnesses is $1.92 billion annually.”

The piece of legislation in mind would allow counties and cities to require health warnings on retail tobacco displays, limit tobacco product advertising in stores near schools and playgrounds and create buffer zones between schools and tobacco retailers.

“I believe that local communities ought to have the right to adopt measures that their constituents want and that those communities are ready to enforce,” Adams said.