The Marin Municipal Water District board at a sometimes raucous meeting this week voted 4-1 to continue to buy chemicals needed to fluoridate Marin’s water supply.
Questions about the process arose when the board took up an item Tuesday night about whether to approve a purchase of chemicals for fluoridation and other purposes, which it does periodically.
Board member Larry Bragman cast the lone vote against the purchase and suggested the board could put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
“The science has evolved and changed,” said Bragman, who wants to get local state legislators involved in the issue. “The science raises significant issues.”
The district could be subject to an enforcement action and fluoridation order issued by the state Department of Public Health if it decided to stop using the chemical after a vote, according to the district.
Bragman has noted a meta-analysis conducted in 2012 by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and China Medical University in Shenyang that found “strong indications” fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children. Meta-analysis is a statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies.
A study by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2014, however, cast doubt on those findings. That study examined the IQ scores of 942 New Zealanders, first at ages 7 to 13, and then again at age 38, and found no significant differences associated with fluoride exposure.
Dr. Howard Pollick, clinical professor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, spoke in favor of fluoridation at the meeting.
“It is the standard practice throughout the United States,” he said. “The science on this has been reviewed recently by the U.S. Public Health Service.”
Larry Russell, chairman of the water board, told the audience: “I strongly suggest you guys consider taking your advice on fluoridation from a dentist and not a lay person,” a comment that drew responses of “it’s about choice!” from the overflow crowd that gathered at district headquarters in Corte Madera for the meeting.
MMWD started adding fluoride to its water in 1973 after a measure calling for fluoridation on the November 1972 ballot passed with the support of 57 percent of voters. Marin voters reaffirmed their support for fluoridation by giving 53 percent support to a local ballot measure in 1978.
Then in 1995, Assembly Bill 733 became law, requiring public water systems that have more than 10,000 connections to provide fluoridated water as long as they don’t use ratepayer funds. The North Marin Water District, which provides water to Novato and West Marin, doesn’t fluoridate its water and does not fall under the rules of AB 733.
An email circulated by fluoridation opponents prior to the meeting asserted the 1995 law “legally allows communities not to fluoridate their water and pay a voluntary penalty instead.” But the water district’s attorney said Tuesday that wasn’t accurate.
About three-fourths of the roughly 20 speakers on the issue Tuesday criticized the water board for adding the chemical to the supply.
“Fluoride is a very toxic chemical,” said Dr. Larry Rose, of Mill Valley.
Anti-fluoridation opponents led an unsuccessful effort to put an initiative on the November 2016 ballot that would have required MMWD to stop adding fluoride to its water until it could provide residents with more information on the process.
“Our hands our tied, the law tells us what to do,” said board member Jack Gibson. “If we fail to obey the law the Attorney General’s Office could send a receiver in to treat the water for us.”
* Original article online at http://www.marinij.com/health/20170607/fluoridation-to-continue-in-marins-water