Facing Santa Monica residents is a controversial decision concerning the health and safety of one of our most valuable resources — our water.
In a 4/3 margin, on October 23, 2001, the Santa Monica City Council voted to add a fluoridation substance to our drinking water.
Mayor (then Pro Tem) Richard Bloom led the motion joined by Council members Herb Katz, Pam O’Connor and Robert Holbrook.
Opposing were (then) Mayor Mike Feinstein, and Council members Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown (now Mayor Pro Tem).
The key argument raised by crusading researchers such as the grass roots Santa Monicans for Safe Drinking Water is the substance itself.
“It is a caustic complex industrial compound derived mostly from the phosphate fertilizer industry and large metals-mining operations,” says founder-environmentalist, Gene Burke.
What Burke refers to is Hydrofluosilicic Acid (HFSA), from which only about 23% is fluoride. HFSA, one of three main fluoridating compounds, according to fluoridation engineer, Tom Reeves, is the most commonly used and by far the cheapest, at 10-15 cents per pound.
It is also classified by California law as a Hazardous Waste.*
Although there are no national regulations or laws governing water fluoridation, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state on their web site, “Many federal agencies concur that water fluoridation is beneficial to public health.”
The EPA’s Senior Scientist, Dr. William Hirzy, and hundreds of other scientists at his Washington, D.C. headquarters take serious issue with any claims of public health benefits. The EPA National Treasury Union, Chapter 280 represent 1700 scientists and environmental professionals who are outspoken opponents of artificial water fluoridation. In a 1997 letter to San Diego Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, Dr. Hirzy summarized findings from an 11-year body of evidence. He wrote, “Our members review?indicate a causal link between fluoride/fluoridation and cancer, genetic damage, neurological impairment and bone pathology.”
Studies have linked fluoridation to cancer, increased blood lead, abnormal behavior and reduced IQ in children (from a study in China published in the “Fluoride Journal”). What’s not known is the cumulative and non-biodegradable effect of fluoride or how much total exposure we receive from our foods, drinks, pharmaceutical products and the environment. “Santa Monica water already contains natural calcium fluoride, and most residents probably already use fluoridated toothpaste and eat foods processed with fluoridated water,” states McKeown. “How much fluoride would Santa Monicans really be ingesting in total? No one seemed able to tell us.”
The “optimal” dosages recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and the CDC are between .7 to 1.2 parts per million, or .7 to 1.2 mg. per liter. But according to San Diego dentist, David Kennedy, they did not take into consideration the wide variation in the amount of water an individual drinks. “Infants on a bottle made up with fluoridated tap water will clearly be overdosed with fluoride, and more than half will display visible white or ugly brown spotted teeth, or dental fluorosis.”
Protecting the teeth of infants (and adults) is main argument for fluoridation. However, a recent study at the University of Indiana analyzing the eating habits of typical three-to-five-year-olds claims that children ingest excessive fluoride, and “risk dental fluorosis from their food, alone.”
Even toothpaste manufacturers are required by law to print a warning on all fluoridated toothpaste. “Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a poison Control Center immediately.”
Still, dentists and other supporters continue to cite their 50-year-old claim of improved dental health, safety and cost-effectiveness.
“But a 50-year-old mistake is just a mistake, not evidence of benefit,” says Kennedy. The California Department of Consumer Affairs Dental Health Board does not permit dentists to diagnose or treat, nor provide a medical opinion regarding the systemic effects of ingested fluoride, according to Kennedy. “By law, they quite simply are not licensed or qualified to render this judgment.”
Proposals to fluoridate were originally brought before City Council in the mid-90’s and rejected. It resurfaced following Governor Pete Wilson’s signature in 1995 of AB733, authorizing statewide water fluoridation (assuming third party funds could be raised). The Council held preliminary citizen meetings and conducted phone surveys.
Initially, telephone polls were fairly equally divided. But with time, McKeown says, “community support for fluoridation seemed to dwindle. An OPCO (Ocean Park Community Organization) poll showed 57% in favor in 2000, but by late 2001 that had switched to 73% opposed.”
Objecting to the perceived lack of due diligence backing the City Council’s 4-3 vote to fluoridate, then newly-formed Santa Monicans for Safe Drinking Water sought an investigation by the Environmental Task Force of Santa Monica (ETF) at a crowded public meeting. The ETF is a Council- appointed advisory body of seven politicians and professional environmentalists. The ETF had publicly declared that they had not been consulted by the Council before, nor since, making this unprecedented decision to fluoridate.
Subsequently, in September, 2002, the ETF sent an urgent written advisory to the Council, advising a moratorium be ordered until the safety of the fluoridating substance could be verified. Burke says he’s learned from the ETF that, to date, the City still has not responded.
Unless something changes, Santa Monicans will be force fed this controversial medicine later this year. The City has signed a 10-year contract with a third party funding agency, which calls for a conditional reimbursement to the city for plant and equipment expenditures.
It’s easy to get lost in the massive web of conflicting information, much of it very convincing. “The way out of this swamp,” Burke states, “is to be meticulous about separating claims from reasonable evidence. This issue then begins to reveal itself as being remarkably simple, if not very convincing.”
*(CA Code of Regulations, Title 22, Section 66261.126)