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A bill expanding the number of small water systems that are exempt from having to fluoridate their water failed to clear a House committee on Thursday.

House Bill 1865, sponsored by Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, would exempt systems serving fewer than 22,000 customers from a 2011 law requiring them to meet Board of Health requirements for fluoridation.

The 2011 law exempts systems with fewer than 5,000 customers.

Ladyman told the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee that many small water systems lack employees with expertise needed to fluoridate water. He added that ingesting too much fluoride can be dangerous.

"We cannot guarantee in some cases that the concentration is correct," Ladyman said.

Nate Smith, director of the state Department of Health, said fluoride helps prevent cavities and reduces the cost to the state's Medicaid program of providing dental care to children from low-income families.

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Systems that are required to fluoridate have been provided adequate resources and technical assistance, he said.

The two systems that have not met the fluoridation requirement "don't want to fluoridate," he said.

The two systems, Madison County Regional Water District, based in Huntsville, and Ozark Mountain Regional Water Authority, based in Diamond City in Boone County, have appealed state Board of Health orders to fluoridate their water.

The systems argue that they are exempt from the 2011 law because they serve only "wholesale" customers, such as other water systems.

HB1865 fell one vote short of the 11 needed for a favorable recommendation. Four members voted against the bill, and six didn't vote.

Legislation sponsored by Ladyman in 2015 would have eliminated the fluoridation requirement altogether. That bill was passed by the House but failed to make it out of a Senate committee.

A Section on 03/17/2017

Print Headline: Fluoridation limitation stalls; Exempting more water systems fails in House committee

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