After more than 60 years of fluoride being added to the water in Healdsburg, it appears voters may be comfortable with keeping it that way.
Early mail-in returns Tuesday showed almost 68 percent of voters saying yes to fluoride, with 32.5 percent voting no.
“I don’t see any harm to it. We’ve been fluoridating. We have the equipment” and the cost is minimal, voter Roger Frankenbach said as he emerged from a polling place.
“There’s no scientific evidence it does anything harmful but prevent cavities,” said Pia Banerjea, a school psychologist.
On the other side of the fluoride divide was substitute teacher Chris Iversen. “I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “If you want to put it in your mouth, you can go to the drugstore for toothpaste. The fewer chemicals in water, the better off we’ll be.”
The contest over Measure P was anticipated to be a preview of a larger battle over whether the Sonoma County Water Agency fluoridates its water supply to more than 600,000 customers including most cities in Sonoma County and parts of Marin. The county health department is studying the issue, which will be up to the Board of Supervisors to decide.
Generations of Healdsburg residents have been drinking fluoridated water since 1952, when the city became one of the first in the state to add it, part of a practice that now includes most California communities and about 75 percent of the public water systems in the United States.
Most dentists and a long list of health organizations back fluoridation as a time proven, cost effective way to cut down on cavities, to safely strengthen teeth and benefit families that don’t see dentists regularly.
But critics see it as form of mass medication, and a dangerous toxin that can lower IQ, decrease thyroid production and cause unsightly teeth discoloration.
The California Dental Association spent more than $45,000 to try and convince Healdsburg voters to continue fluoridation, far outstripping the less than $3,000 in cash raised by fluoride opponents.
The City Council put Measure P on the ballot after anti-fluoride activists gathered the signatures to bring it to voters.