After being voted down twice by residents of the city, the law requiring fluoridation that was passed by the Arkansas Legislature last year could still go into effect in the near future despite vehement local opposition.
The law mandates that any city that serves more than 5,000 residents is required to add fluoride to its drinking water. Currently, Eureka Springs purchases 100 percent of its water from the Carroll Boone Water District, which is now preparing to institute the changes. A recap of CBWD's most recent public meeting on fluoridation can be found at http://www.CarrollCoNews.com/story/18412....
Opponents cite concerns over the cost of fluoridation, because promised grant funds from Delta Dental to upgrade CBWD's facilities will not cover the estimated $1.2 million necessary for the expanded equipment to add the required ingredients. The grant that has been awarded is for about $763,000.
Opponents also have argued their concerns over the potential health effects of fluoride, which are questionable at best, they say. There are dozens of conflicting reports and a lot of unanswered questions, they argue.
"We want to send a message to whomever that we still don't want it," Eureka Springs Alderman Lany Ballance said at Monday night's meeting.
The resolution passed by the council is a plea to the Legislature for a repeal of the law. But Arkansas Department of Health spokesman Ed Barham says there is overwhelming credible scientific research proving that fluoride is a safe and effective way to provide dental care.
"In Arkansas, there are 187,000 people who have no teeth at all, and this situation could dramatically improve that number," Barham said. But, he said, there are no studies backing up opponents' claims that fluoride is dangerous.
In summary, Resolution 600 discusses the alleged adverse effects of fluoridation in drinking water and its chemical ingredients. It also laments a lack of information on fluoride's effect on the older water pipe system within the city, as well as on human consumption.
Regardless of the council's wishes, because of the state mandate, fluoridization appears imminent across the state.
"We have to assume it will happen," Eureka Springs Public Works Officer Dwayne Allen said. "But Delta Dental has way underestimated the set-up costs and the costs of the chemicals. In the long run, it could affect the (customer's water) rates, but that's all to be decided. ... It could come back to operation costs, and our fear is that we're already super tight and can't absorb a rate increase."
The law states that the fluoride costs are to be paid by private funds and can't be passed on to the citizens.
"There are lot of real negatives about it," Allen added.
According to a two-page Department of Health review, there are more than 180 million people in the United States who drink water containing enough fluoride to protect their teeth, that has been ongoing for more than 60 years.
However, research has found small amounts of lead and copper in the fluoridation process that theoretically could cause leaching in the water pipes. Leaching occurs when chemicals within the pipes "leak" into the water itself.
"The bottom line is, that it's not much healthier," Ballance said of the fluoridated water.
The council hopes to send Resolution 600 to influential legislators who hopefully can work to repeal the law; a decision on exactly where to send it will be discussed at their next regular meeting on Monday, June 25.