Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride debate widespread

Source: The Coloradoan | March 29th, 2005 | By Kevin Darst
Location: United States, Colorado

Fluoride advocates in Southern California had 18 million reasons to cheer two years ago.

That’s when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state’s largest water agency, voted to fluoridate its water supply, which reaches 18 million customers.

“That’s probably one of our biggest successes,” said Gayle Mathe, a policy analyst for the California Dental Association.

About two-thirds of Americans on municipal water supplies drink fluoridated water. Fort Collins Utilities has fluoridated the city’s water supply since 1967, but voters are being asked in the April 5 mail-ballot municipal election whether they want to remove fluoride from the water.

Local dental and health officials vehemently support keeping fluoride and say it reduces decay at a cost less than a dollar per resident per year, a position bolstered by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association.

Fluoride opponents say it could cause health risks.

California’s Legislature in 1995 approved a policy encouraging fluoridation statewide. Since then, communities across the state that don’t already fluoridate have looked at adding the chemical.

The Southern California Municipal Water District’s decision has not been challenged in court, and the utility says fluoridation will start in 2006.

In Watsonville, Calif., near Santa Cruz, voters in 2002 banned fluoride from the water. The city did not fluoridate at the time. The state challenged the vote in court and won when the judge said fluoridation was in the state’s best interest.

Voters in Palo Alto, Calif., elected in 2003 to keep fluoride in the city’s water supply. Palo Alto has fluoridated its water since 1956.

The scene also has played out in Colorado in recent years in Colorado Springs and Telluride, where elected town leaders voted against the chemical.

Opponents of fluoride in Colorado Springs convinced the City Council in 2002 not to add fluoride to city water. About one-third of the city’s water has levels of fluoride above 0.7-1.2 parts per million, the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Steve Berry, a spokesman for the Colorado Springs Utility.

“It was a pretty contentious vote,” Berry said.

In Telluride, Dr. David Homer, the San Miguel County health officer and a Telluride physician, asked the Town Council to remove fluoride from its water supply, which it voted to do in April 2004.

The town had fluoridated its water since 1989.

Homer said removal of the product would make it easier for physicians and dentists to prescribe fluoride supplements, primarily to children, because kids in and out of the town would be getting the same baseline amount of fluoride.

Homer said last week that he doesn’t believe the chemical is effective.

“If you keep chipping away at these dogmas, hopefully over generations you can make a change,” Homer said.

Town leaders hoped to provide free fluoride supplements to children in lieu of community fluoridation, but money for the program quickly ran out after supplements proved more expensive than Homer thought.
The program hasn’t been resuscitated.

“We jumped on a recommendation from our local public health officer without proper public input,” said Telluride Mayor John Pryor, who voted to keep fluoride in the town’s water. “We were trying to make a good decision.”