Robert Love

To protect the health needs of more students, Student Government is working on a plan to implement safer drinking water.

Student Government passed a bill last week to install fluoride filters on at least two drinking fountains on campus, making UT the first college in the nation to offer such a plan, said Student Government representative Robert Love, public affairs graduate student and author of the bill. Love said he hopes to unveil the fluoride-free fountains by the end of the semester but is still waiting on a signature from the Student Government president and approval from the University.

“We’ve all heard that fluoride is good for our teeth because it’s in our toothpaste,” Love said. “But the toothpaste label says not to swallow. When the fluoride is in the water, it is being swallowed so it’s not just on our teeth anymore. It’s in our bodies where it’s not helpful.”

Love said fluoride is especially harmful to those with kidney disease, thyroid disease and diabetes. Fluoride forces the kidneys to work harder because it is another substance to filter, replaces iodine in the thyroid and because people with diabetes must drink more water, they are more at risk of developing brittle bones if the water contains fluoride, Love said.

“The resolution will be signed,” said outgoing Student Government President Natalie Butler. “I think it is fine that those students who are concerned about fluoride have options on campus.”

Love said the cost of the filtered fountains is estimated at about $200 per fountain per year, which is much cheaper than originally estimated. He said he hopes this increases support.

Love said he does not support all the fountains being filtered because he believes students deserve a choice.

“Having clean water is so important to having good health,” Love said. “If there is something wrong with the water, it hurts the people and the plants and animals we eat because they also drink that water. Water fluoridation is an issue of helping those who cannot afford dental care but at the expense of others. If you are going to enact a health policy, it needs to help everyone.”

American studies senior Taylor Metting said she has osteopenia, an early form of osteoporosis, and dental fluorosis, a condition resulting from fluoride replacing calcium in teeth. She said her doctor recommends she consume as little fluoride as possible, so she has had to avoid drinking water on campus unless she brings her own treated water, which gets expensive.

“The fact that people are unaware of the potential negative health effects of fluoride is disheartening, and having fluoride-free fountains could help educate people on this topic,” Metting said.

Water naturally includes fluoride, but the government adds more in an attempt to prevent cavities, Love said.

“This is really great for the University,” Love said. “Hopefully we can get more than two filtered fountains so people all over campus can get fluoride-free water.”

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: SG bill to install flouride-free fountains

While anti-bacterial soap can be hygienic, Student Government members want the campus to ban the soap because it contains a chemical possibly harmful to students’ health.

A possible ban on antibacterial soap containing triclosan, a chemical that can lower immune function, is being pushed by Student Government after they passed a resolution Tuesday night. In addition to weakening the immune system, the chemical triclosan can potentially harm aquatic life. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering banning the chemical. The University stopped using the antibacterial soap containing the chemical triclosan in restrooms on campus four years ago. However, soap containing the chemical is still used in other places on campus.

Student government representative and public affairs graduate student Robert Love said the soap is still used by the Division of Housing and Food Service, University Health Services and the School of Nursing.

“What we’re saying is we need an outright ban on campus, and we need to kind of make a bold statement,” said urban studies senior and SG representative John Lawler, who helped author the bill. “In a lot of places it’s not being banned; it’s not being considered a harmful chemical.”

Love said University officials are receptive to the potential ban.

“UT is a very progressive campus and everyone I have spoken to has been willing to look at the science and then make a decision based upon that science,” Love said.

Love said after he asked the Division of Housing and Food Service to look into the chemical’s harmful effects, they stopped buying it.

“Just a little bit of information went a long way in persuading the University about the dangers of triclosan,” Love said.

Love said the next step for the ban would be for SG President Natalie Butler and others on the executive board to advocate the bill. Love said UT would be the first university in the nation to take an official stance against triclosan in anti-bacterial soap.