Prodded by the scientific establishment but acting over the objections of some residents, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission voted yesterday to add fluoride to the drinking water of about 460,000 customers on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.
Public health experts say fluoridation is nothing less than a 20th century public health miracle, reducing the incidence of cavities in children by some 50 percent. Opponents say fluoride, which people ingest in many foods as well as water, causes a host of medical problems including bone and teeth problems and lower IQ in children.
San Francisco’s vast Hetch Hetchy water system already fluoridates the water for most of its 2.4 million customers. Water in San Francisco has been fluoridated since 1952. Yesterday’s unanimous vote will affect the water in Belmont, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.
“I do not want fluoride. I do not want my children to have fluoride in their water,” Cheryl Amalu of Belmont, a mother of five, told the commission.
But Dr. Howard Pollick, a professor of dentistry at the University of California at San Francisco and vice chairman of the California Fluoridation Task Force, told the PUC: “There continues to be evidence from numerous studies of dental health in Canada, England, Australia, New York State and California that community water fluoridation continues to provide a benefit in tooth decay reduction, even in an era of almost ubiquitous fluoride toothpaste use.”
The vote came as the commission decided whether to build a new fluoridating facility in the East Bay. In going ahead with the new plant, the city PUC turned aside the idea of expanding its Polhemus facility in San Mateo.
PUC staff said the East Bay option would be cheaper and more efficient.
Before the water can be fluoridated, the PUC has to perform an environmental review to even build the new plant.