Citizens meet to stand against water fluoridation
Carroll County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water met Tuesday night to discuss ways to stop the fluoridation of water in Carroll and Boone counties early next year. The Arkansas legislature passed a law in early 2011 requiring fluoridation of water in cities and counties of more than 5,000 people.
The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, included break-out sessions where citizens discussed everything from legislation to media campaigns to raise awareness on the perils of water fluoridation.
Eureka Springs Alderwoman Joyce Zeller was among one of the speakers who adamantly opposes industrial-strength fluoride in the local water supply. Zeller and other speakers at the meeting said that the chemicals that are used to fluoridate water are a byproduct of smelting ore and are not sold in the United States. Alderwoman Mickey Schneider told the Citizen in an interview last month that the fluoride comes from countries like China and Mexico but that the Carroll-Boone Water District had located a European company that could possibly provide a better grade of fluoride.
Zeller talked about supporting the Arkansas Water Additive Accountability Act, which was sponsored by State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, and co-sponsored by State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville. The legislation was introduced in February 2013 and died in the Arkansas Senate in May 2013.
Citizens at the meeting questioned how Delta Dental, which they say is paying for equipment to fluoridate Arkansas water, can be classified as a non-profit organization since Delta Dental is also an insurance corporation.
"We would like to know how a non-profit can also be an insurance company," said Becky Gillette, who spoke at the meeting. "I've been a business reporter for several years and this doesn't make sense."
Further investigation by the Citizen revealed that Charity Navigator shows Delta Dental Plan of Arkansas is listed as a 501(c)(4) organization. According to the Internal Revenue Service, 501(c)(4) tax exemption status "provides for the exemption of two very different types of organizations with their own distinct qualification requirements." The two types of organizations are social welfare organizations and local associations of employees. The IRS defines social welfare organizations as "civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare and local associations of employees where membership is limited to the employees of designated person(s) in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively for the promotion of social welfare."
According to the IRS website, organizations that engage in substantial lobbying activities sometimes also are classified as social welfare organizations. Corporations were allowed to give unrestricted contributions to political campaigns and 501(c)(4)s grew exponentially as a result of the Citizens United case.
No matter their political affiliation, local politicians agree with citizens who say that the fluoride issue is not just a medical issue but also a personal rights issue.
"From my standpoint, it's not the state's business to get involved in people's personal health decisions," Ballinger said. "There are individuals who believe fluoride is damaging to them. Whether the science or facts show it's damaging, which I think it does, it's irrelevant because individuals believe fluoridation is damaging so the state should let people make their own health decisions."
Speakers at the meeting encouraged citizens to take action and ask for personal exemptions for themselves and their family members that would require schools to provide bottled water to children whose parents request the exemption.
According to the speakers at the meeting, Delta Dental provided grants that paid for the water fluoridation equipment at CBWD.