The House on Wednesday passed a proposal to adapt state law to recently issued federal guidelines on the level of fluoride that should be added to drinking water.
Water fluoridation has strong support from public health officials and dentists, but also frequently sparks intense opposition from those who believe it should not be added to public water supplies. The Public Health Committee’s public hearing on the proposal drew testimony from many people opposed to fluoridation, as well as many supporters.
On Wednesday, the bill got through the House in a matter of minutes and passed by a margin of 129 to 11. It now goes to the Senate.
Supporters describe the bill as a technical change, rather than an attempt to address the merits of water fluoridation itself. It calls for aligning the level of fluoride required in water supplied by companies serving 20,000 or more people to federal standards, which recently changed.
Connecticut has added fluoride to drinking water since 1965, based on federal recommendations developed in 1962.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated its guidelines for the levels of fluoride in drinking water, based on a scientific review process by the U.S. Public Health Service. The new guidelines say the optimal concentration of fluoride in drinking water is 0.7 milligrams per liter, while the previous recommendation called for concentrations ranging from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter. Connecticut’s current law calls for concentrations to be between 0.8 and 1.2 milligrams per liter.
The bill that passed the House calls for water companies to maintain an average monthly fluoride content within 0.15 milligrams per liter of the most recent federal recommendation.
Public Health Committee Co-Chair Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the bill was written to allow the state to adapt to any future changes in federal guidelines without having to rewrite the law.
Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, the top House Republican on the Public Health Committee, said the new recommendation for a lower level of fluoride in drinking water reflects the fact that people now get fluoride from other sources, including toothpaste. He acknowledged controversy about fluoride, but said it is based on studies that are not well documented.
“An ounce of prevention, it goes a long way and that’s what this fluoride does,” said Srinivasan, a physician.