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Louisiana law clears path for fluoridation

Baton Rouge, La.—After more than a decade of effort by a large coalition to bring better oral health to Louisiana citizens, Gov. Bobby Jindal July 8 signed SB 312, a fluoridation bill.

The bill was sponsored by the Louisiana Dental Association with support from several organizations, including the Louisiana Dental Hygienists' Association, the Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Coalition and the Louisiana Academy of General Dentistry.

Now called Act 761, the law mandates that community water systems statewide with at least 5,000 hookups provide cost estimates to the state for implementing fluoridation by March 2009. The state will then work with each system to find grants and state budget funds to implement fluoridation community by community. The LDA estimates that about 110 water systems and just under 2 million citizens will be affected by the new law.

Communities can vote to opt out if 15 percent of registered voters sign a petition.

"Basically, the bill says that each water system will provide the state with a cost estimate and then when the state finds the funding, they will fluoridate," said Ward Blackwell, LDA executive director. "It eliminates all the barriers to fluoridation except cost."

Mr. Blackwell says in 1997, a state water fluoridation advisory board was formed within the office of public health to encourage communities to fluoridate, but in a 10-year period, only two communities became fluoridated.

"In 2007, we had the opportunity to work with the ADA, and that helped us make more of a statewide impact," he said. "The ADA's resources were terrific, helping us shape our strategy and to respond to questions with accurate scientific evidence and the staff offered us the support we needed."

A coalition of supporting organizations helped get the bill passed, he added. (See a complete list online at www.healthysmileslouisiana.org.) Supporters worked hard to contact state legislators individually and to educate key groups about the safety and efficacy of optimally fluoridated water.

Community water fluoridation has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. CDC monitors the progress by states and the nation toward meeting the Healthy People 2010 objective on community water fluoridation. According to the CDC's latest statistics released July 11, Louisiana has a 40 percent fluoridation rate as of 2006.