Surprise Loser in Tuesday's Elections? Fluoride

Ballot initiatives in midwest ban addition of anti-cavity supplement to drinking water

A number of communities, mostly in Nebraska, passed ballot initiatives on Tuesday allowing them to opt out of state water safety standards that mandate the fluoridation of local drinking water supplies.

The Centers for Disease Control identified water fluoridation as one of the ten greatest achievements in public health in the 20th century, so its crushing defeat may shock some. But the defeat was the result of a spirited campaign by fluoridation opponents who have long argued that the practice is a poisonous and totalitarian one. Anti-fluoride initiatives were on the ballots of 41 Nebraska communities Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal and the initiatives were overwhelmingly successful. In Hastings, Neb., 66% of voters voted against adding fluoride to the water supply.

The success was largely the result of active campaigning by groups like Nebraskans for Safe Water, whose spokesman Marvin "Butch" Hughes told the WSJ that fluoride is a poison. "You can't dump it in the ocean or a landfill, and they want to put it in our water. It's insane."

Hughes is convinced that fluoridated water contributes to brittle bones and cancer. Nonetheless, the addition of minute amounts of fluoride to municipal water supplies has led to a dramatic decrease in tooth decay in the United States over the past half century.

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