Fluoride is on the way out in the Olivehurst Public Utility District.
Citing potential health concerns from the chemical compound, the district’s board voted 3-2 on Thursday night to stop adding it to drinking water, four years after its use was approved through a local grant to bolster children’s dental health.
“I’ve seen people from the community asking us to take it out, and I haven’t seen people from the community asking us to leave it in,” said board member Dennise Burbank, one of the three votes to remove fluoride. “I don’t think we should force it on people.”
Another board member, Ron Dougherty Jr., brought fluoride up for discussion again at the meeting after the board a year ago voted to keep adding it. Originally, a handful of Plumas Lake residents, later bolstered by dozens of others, asked OPUD to remove fluoride because of the same health concerns.
Though they didn’t speak during the meeting, two residents who had spoken against fluoride in the past cheered when the board took an initial 3-2 vote against continuing to add the compound.
At past meetings, fluoride opponents said studies, including one by a former Environmental Protection Agency scientist, showed fluoride as a toxin and a form of hazardous waste.
But board member James Carpenter, who voted to continue fluoridation, said the amount OPUD puts in drinking water was far below potentially toxic levels.
Four dentists who spoke, including two from Yuba City and another who is the president of the California Dental Association, said fluoride has only helped, particularly on preventing cavities, in their experience.
“I know fluoride is safe. I know it’s effective. I know it’s very cost effective,” said Mike Kennedy, a Yuba City dentist.
By voting to remove the compound, OPUD General Manager Tim Shaw said, the district now has to inform area dentists and pharmacists of the decision and change its water permit.
The board also voted 3-2 to begin a 60-day process to take those steps and formally stop adding fluoride to water. Shaw said he would also have to research potential costs to the district as a result.
OPUD began adding fluoride in 2009 through a $150,000 grant from First Five Yuba, which is charged with using tobacco tax revenues to improve early childhood health and development.