Fluoride opponents have their day at Statehouse

Lawmakers from the House Health and Human Services Committee heard lengthy testimony from opposing sides Wednesday about fluoride and its effect on water in Kansas.

Language in House Bill 2372 states that more research would need to be made on the exact effects of fluoride, but there is a possibility for harm to the brain and other important organs in the human body. It would require municipalities that fluoridate drinking water to include a statement to that effect on water bills.

Michael Connett, a lawyer, led bill proponents by discussing concerns with fluoride in water.

“As an initial point, infants do not need to receive fluoride,” he said.

Yolanda Whyte, testified about pregnancies and the effect of fluoride on children, a theme that Connett picked up on.

“They started doing studies and low and behold the children getting more fluoride have lower IQs,” Connett said.

The two cited a study done by Anna Choi, of Harvard University, that said fluoride in the water in China and Iran affected IQ. No such outcomes have been observed in the United States, which Connett said was due to lack of study.

“The problem with that approach is the absence of evidence does not equal the evidence of safety,” Connett said.

Some committee members questioned whether proponents had made a strong enough case for the bill, especially considering the lack of conclusive studies done in the United States.

“I hope you understand our concern about creating a bill or creating a requirement based off inconclusive science,” said Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, before adding, “but we’ve also made laws based off of inconclusive science.”

Rep. Leslie Osterman, R-Wichita, asked how many other states are looking at an anti-fluoride bill.

Connett said that Kansas would be the first state to pass this kind of legislation.

After hearing from the proponents for the bill, a long list of opponents testified.

One of them was John Neuberger, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at The University of Kansas School of Medicine. He represented the Kansas Public Health Association, which promotes and improves the population health in Kansas.

He said many parts of the Harvard study weren’t conclusive. He said Choi’s results were preliminary in nature and shouldn’t be used for setting drinking water policy in the United States.

Greg Hill testified on behalf of the Kansas Dental Association that every dollar invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs.

There also was opposition testimony from the Kansas Action for Children, Oral Health of Kansas and citations from the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Dental Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The committee took no action on the bill.

This article was originally printed in The Topeka Capital-Journal on February 19, 2014. 

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