Title of Editorial: As We See It: Tooth for a tooth — Watsonville needs to stop stalling on fluoridation deal
It’s hard to believe that the fight to fluoridate Watsonville’s water is still in the dental chair.
For most of the past decade, a fight has raged within the city about whether to protect children’s teeth — or give in to unwarranted, sometimes hysterical, claims that fluoride is unsafe and unnecessary and that it is some sort of government or chemical intrusion into people’s lives.
The problem with the arguments against fluoride is that they’ve been thoroughly debunked. Study after study has shown that in cities where fluoride was put into the water supply, public health did not suffer.
That argument has not been persuasive in Watsonville, however. In 2002, voters in the city rejected fluoridation, albeit by a narrow majority.
No matter that doctors have found that migrant children in Watsonville have alarmingly high rates of tooth decay.
The opposition includes Martinelli’s juice company, which has said it will consider moving production of a new line of fruit juices elsewhere if the fluoride plans are approved. The company argues that adding fluoride to the water will hurt juice sales. Other fluoride opponents include City Councilman Greg Caput.
But even if city officials are reluctant to incur the wrath of voters, they’re going to have to comply. For one thing, the city is negotiating with the California Dental Association for a $2 million grant that would provide money to install and operate a fluoridation system.
This is crucial, because state law requires cities to fluoridate water supplies if an outside agency is able to cover the costs.
An appeals court has ruled that existing state law requiring cities with 10,000 or more water hookups to fluoridate overrides Watsonville’s voter-approved ordinance.
Meanwhile, the state health department is watching the city’s slow progress. While the city has blamed its slow pace at concluding negotiations for the grant on furloughs and a heavy workload, the state has said it is awaiting Watsonville’s response to a letter asking for a status update.
The health department has the authority to impose daily fines if Watsonville doesn’t move forward with the project.
It’s been nearly a month since the Watsonville City Council agreed to establish an ad hoc committee to finalize details of the grant agreement.
City leaders, probably reluctant because of the local vote, need to fill this leadership cavity, make the deal and put the public’s dental health — and state law — first.