TOPEKA — Jeff Oleson isn’t ready just yet to give his eye teeth to know the outcome of a House bill that would require new guidelines regarding the fluoridation of public water supplies.
But Oleson, assistant utilities director with the City of Ottawa, is interested in following House Bill 2372, which could change dramatically after it cycles through the legislative process, he said.
If passed, the bill would require all Kansas municipalities that fluoridate their water to “notify the consumers of that treated water, that the latest science confirms that ingested fluoride lowers the IQ in children.”
Ottawa has used water fluoridation for more than 65 years, according to city records.
Oleson is not familiar with any study or group that has raised concerns about fluoride lowering the IQ in children, he said. But Oleson said he is familiar with credible research that shows fluoride does help with the healthful development of teeth in toddlers and youth.
Lawmakers from the Health and Human Services committee heard lengthy testimony from opposing sides Wednesday about HB 2372 dealing with fluoride and its effect on water in Kansas.
Some of the language in the bill discussed that more research would be needed on the exact effects of fluoride, but there’s a possibility for harm to important organs in the human body and the lowering of IQ.
Michael Connett, a Philadelphia lawyer, led bill proponents by discussing the difficulties with fluoride in water.
“As an initial point, infants do not need to receive fluoride,” he said.
Dr. Yolanda Whyte, an Atlanta pediatrician, testified on the basis of protecting pediatric care and pregnancy dealing with fluoride and children.
“They started doing studies and lo 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 used in China and Iran affected IQ. No such research has been done in the United States.
“The problem with that approach is the absence of evidence does not equal the evidence of safety,” Connett said.
Oleson was reluctant to comment about a study he was not familiar with, he said. But he added that with any study, a person has to look at the methodology that was used and the make-up of the group being studied before determining if its findings were reliable and relevant.
The City of Ottawa follows Kansas Department of Health and Environment guidelines regarding fluoridation, Oleson said, adding he believed KDHE’s recommendations were in step with federal guidelines that “hopefully are based on relevant U.S. data and not on a fluoride study conducted in another country that could have a completely different environment.”
In the past three years, KDHE has lowered the recommended use of fluoridation from 1 part per million particles to 0.7 part per million particles, Oleson said, In other words, for every 1 million particles of water, 0.7 particle would be fluoride.
In 1946, Ottawa became the first city in Kansas to start using fluoride in its water supply, according to Herald archives. Ottawa now also supplies water to some surrounding rural water districts, Oleson said.
“At that time [in the 1940s], fluoride products weren’t as readily available as they are today, and [fluoridation] was used to promote dental health,” Oleson said.
The City of Ottawa tests its water on a regular basis and issues an annual report on its findings, Oleson said. The past 10 annual reports are available on the city’s website, www.ottawaks.gov Hard copies also are available at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.
The city’s decision to fluoridate its water supply was established through an ordinance adopted by the city commission, Oleson said, adding it would require another action by the city commission to cease fluoridation.
On Wednesday, Health and Human Services committee members asked several questions of the anti-fluoride bill’s proponents, especially since there has not been conclusive fluoride testing in the United States, lawmakers said.
“I hope you understand our concern about creating a bill or creating a requirement based off inclusive science, but we’ve also made laws based off of inclusive science,” state Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, said.
State Rep. Leslie Osterman, R-Wichita, asked how many other states are looking at an anti-fluoride bill.
Connett answered that Kansas would be the first state to pass such legislation.
After hearing from the proponents for the bill, a long list of opponents began their testimony.
One of the opponents was Dr. 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.”
Many parts of the Harvard study were not conclusive, Neuberger said. He said Choi’s results were preliminary in nature and should not 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 were several other written and oral opposition testimonies from the Kansas Action for Children, Oral Health of Kansas, the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The session closed without a vote from the committee.