Glass of water, cup, drink
(Courtesy photo)

BOISE • The Idaho Senate has rejected a resolution lauding water fluoridation.

Community water fluoridation to prevent tooth decay started to become common in the United States after a series of studies in the 1940s, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” as Senate sponsor Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said Thursday. Most water systems in Idaho don’t add fluoride since it occurs in the water here naturally.

However, the measure’s opponents, including Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said fluoride may have some negative effects and objected to the principle of adding medication to water systems, and the resolution failed 16-18.

Introduced by Rep. Kelly Packer, R-McCammon, the resolution passed the House 46-19 in February.

Idaho played a role in the development of a scientific understanding of fluoride and its effects. After Oakley built a communal water pipe to a nearby warm spring in 1908, soon many of the children in the community had brown, mottled teeth.

Researchers noticed the same thing in some other Western towns in the early 20th century, too. Eventually, they figured out it was due to too-high levels of fluoride, and also that fluoride seemed to make teeth more resistant to decay.

Stennett said adding fluoride to water “is a form of medical treatment, where other treatments that are chemically added are … for water quality or safety, which fluoride does not do.”

Stennett said people ingest fluoride from a wide variety of other foods, beverages and other products. She also said fluoride unprocessed by the kidneys can remain in the body.

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“I just can’t support it,” she said. “It has some detriment to your body.”

Sen. Clifford Bayer, R-Boise, said that fluoride cannot easily be removed from water, and that people shouldn’t have to remove it if they don’t want it, anyway. He said everyone, including pregnant women and the elderly who might be more susceptible to ill effects, takes in the same amount in their water.

“Can anybody think of any other attempt for a delivery mechanism in such a mass way?” he said.

Stennett was the only Magic Valley senator to vote against the resolution. Sens. Kelly Anthon, R-Rupert, Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, and Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, voted in favor.

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