Leaders of The Health Trust outlined the next steps in their bid to fluoridate San Jose’s water during a meeting at Santa Clara University on Feb. 10, and they previewed a campaign to raise roughly $18 million for the project.
Because San Jose is one the largest metropolitan areas in the nation without fluoridated water, the Health Trust has connected with the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Charitable Trusts and First 5 Santa Clara County to plan the fundraising, communications and implementation of a fluoridation project in San Jose.
Health Trust CEO Frederick Ferrer said the trust opened a children’s dental clinic in East San Jose in 2008, and many of its patients have tooth decay, toothaches and other problems that can interfere with schoolwork. The clinic has had some success, but he and his supporters indicated that fluoridating the water would improve the health of residents at all income levels and ages.
“We cannot drill our way out of this problem,” Ferrer said. “The science is settled, the law is settled. For us it’s about the political will and the costs. It’s about getting an engineering study done,” Ferrer said.
California law requires large water retailers such San Jose Water Co. to fluoridate tap water if they are provided the money to do it. To that end, the Campbell-based Health Trust initiated a study in 2009 that will tackle the logistics and price tag of fluoridating San Jose Water Co. water.
San Jose Water Co. is the water retailer for the Rose Garden, Cambrian, Willow Glen and Almaden Valley areas.
A separate water retailer for Evergreen and other San Jose areas—San Jose Municipal Water Co.—already has fluoridated water, as do roughly 69 percent of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. It has been used in municipal water systems since the 1940s to strengthen and protect teeth.
Fluoride is naturally occurring at some level in all water, and studies in such journals as the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in July 2002 have indicated that it is safe and effective in improving dental health.
However, fluoride backers say that its opponents pose a formidable threat to the campaign by casting doubt on its safety.
Groups like the Fluoride Action Group and Rose Garden-based Citizens for Safe Drinking Water worry about fluorosis, or over-fluoridation, that also can cause tooth decay. Maureen Jones, who lives in the Rose Garden area, for years has archived documents for her Citizens for Safe Drinking Water group.
Shelly Gehshan, the director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, has dealt with fluoride skeptics across the country. She said the Internet has emboldened skeptics and made it easier to spread “junk science” and distort medical research.
Although the San Jose City Council essentially has no jurisdiction in water fluoridation, county Supervisor Liz Kniss has set a goal of fluoridating all of Santa Clara County’s water in five years. Kniss and Marty Fenstersheib, the county public health officer, attended the meeting at Santa Clara University to support the effort.
“It’s a major public health issue and we will be at every table lending support,” Fenstersheib said.
For more information on fluoride and The Health Trust, visit www.healthtrust.org