WEST JORDAN — Voters approved it and Salt Lake County passed an ordinance requiring it. So fluoride will be flowing throughout the valley by October 2003, right?
Nothing is ever that simple when it comes to fluoride.
Right now, West Jordan is investigating whether it can opt out of fluoridation, which Councilman Andrew Allison says would amount to “forced medication of every man, woman and child” in his city.
Assistant City Attorney Ryan Carter is checking whether this city of 69,000 — the county’s fourth-largest — can qualify for an exemption under the current ordinance.
Carter argues that the statute and the 2000 ballot initiative question — Shall fluoride be added to the public water supplies within Salt Lake County? — were ambiguous and could possibly be challenged in court.
“When you read the language of the question, it sounds like an opinion question and doesn’t read like a statute, spelling out the ways and means this would be implemented,” Carter told the council this week.
Countywide, voters supported fluoridation 58 percent to 42 percent.
As for the county ordinance, it does not specify funding sources or the kind of fluoride that should be used. “Any city attempting in good faith to comply with the ordinance would be at a loss on how to comply,” Carter said.
Legal questions aside, several proponents of a fluoride-free West Jordan voiced concerns that increased water contamination, health complications and the right to choose outweigh fluoride’s possible dental health benefits.
In a prepared presentation, Rae Howard warned that some manufactured fluorides are inseparable from the toxic contaminants to which they are chemically bonded, such as arsenic, lead and mercury.
“To say that fluoride or these contaminants are safe for everyone in every dose — determined by thirst — throughout a lifetime is blatantly untrue,” said Howard, president of the Utah Health Forum, a grass-roots health care organization.
West Jordan resident Phil Dunn says he is allergic to fluoride and wants the city to “wise up.”
“Europe is 98 percent fluoride-free and their cavity levels have not suffered,” he said. “To me, the jury is still out on whether fluoride is an effective treatment for teeth and cavities.”
To many health professionals, though, the verdict is clear: Fluoridation prevents cavities. The American Dental Association, American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control all support it.
West Jordan City Manager Gary Luebbers says he invited representatives from the Salt Lake Valley Health Department to argue for fluoridation, but they declined.
“They said they are not willing to debate the pros and cons of fluoride because, in their minds, the issue has already been settled by the voters,” Luebbers said.
In the end, the council voted 4-2 to draft an ordinance that would set standards for drinking water.
Allison says the proposed ordinance would be modeled after a Lakewood, Calif., statute that forbids adding any substance to the public water supply “for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body of any person,” unless it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and does not contain excess contaminants.
The city attorney’s office will assess the legality of such an ordinance and present a draft to the council in coming weeks.