Fluoride Action Network

Palo Alto’s 49 years of fluoridation going to the voters

Source: Palo Alto Citizens for Safe Drinking Water | May 27th, 2003

Palo Alto Citizens for Safe Drinking Water announced today that a Certificate of Sufficiency of the Initiative Petition was received from the City Clerk’s office on Friday, May 23. The Certificate verifies that the more than 3000 signatures filed on May 15 contained valid signatures in excess of the 2194 necessary to place the Palo Also Safe Drinking Water Initiative before the voters in November.

The Palo Alto Safe Drinking Water Initiative, if enacted by the voters, will immediately halt water fluoridation of the public water supplies that was initiated by citywide ballot in 1954, and will establish clear criteria for any future reintroduction of the practice.

“Many people in our community have had limited access to updates on water fluoridation, states one of the group members,” Susan Willis, Ph.D., “and we expect that some will have no knowledge beyond the historical claims made for this practice. But the events of the last few years have dramatically shifted the status of the science on fluoridation, and once the residents of Palo Alto can look at the vastly expanded exposures to fluoride from other-than-water sources such as teas, cereals, sodas, fruit juices, and fluoride-based pesticide residues on produce, we will all have a chance to determine whether the continuation of this fluoride delivery system through our public water is still warranted.

“This re-examination of fluoridation in a community that has been using the practice for a long time is not an isolated instance.”

On April 9, 2003, on a motion by their Commission for Health and Social Issues, the City of Basel, Switzerland, a city of 200,000, voted to halt fluoridation after more than 40 years, stating that after this duration they could find no proof of its effectiveness and ample determination of its health risks. Basel was the last of the cities in Switzerland to fluoridate, and joins the rest of Europe, which is now 98% free of water fluoridation. This comes on the heels of Belgium, which does not fluoridate, recently banning the use of fluoride drops and tablets for children.

In February of this year, Canton, New York halted fluoridation with the support of 130 faculty and staff members of St. Lawrence University. “In a University town like Palo Alto, with so many well educated citizens who can make an unbiased fresh evaluation of the science, similar support is expected from the local scientific community, ” said Willis.

Dr. Willis explains, “Historically, the discussion of water fluoridation has always revolved around children’s dental health, an expectation that swallowing fluoride would inhibit dental disease, and an assumption that there was a huge deficiency in access and exposures to fluoride from any other source, so that using the water supply as a delivery system was essential to universal access.

“Those who attempted to point out any fallacies in the practice of fluoridation have often been characterized by proponents of fluoridation as unscientific or uncaring for children, effectively blocking unbiased monitoring of the effects of a public policy initiated here in Palo Alto almost 50 years ago.

“A Congressional investigation and hearing on fluoride; updated science which has now determined that fluoride’s beneficial effects do not come from swallowing fluoride–but from its direct application to the tooth surface; a closer look at the actual chemicals used for fluoridation; and shifts in professional recommendations for controlled fluoride dosage in the light of the huge proliferation of fluoride in beverages, processed foods, and produce show us that it is essential that we no longer ignore the current realities.

“Our initiative clearly states the reasoning and events that support placing this re-examination of fluoridation before the voters,” said Willis.

Willis concludes, “Although a state law enacted in 1995 appears at first glance to conflict with passage of this Ordinance, in reality it does not: 1) the state law, often described as a mandate, has, in fact, not been proven to be a statewide concern – many communities have recently elected to reject fluoridation and the state has not sought to override the voters in those communities; 2) if a court were to determine that the state law prevails over the voters of a Charter City such as Palo Alto, then the very same state law requires that in order for the state law to compel a water district to fluoridate, all funding for each and every year for operations and maintenance must come from sources other than ratepayers or taxpayers of the community; and 3) this ordinance does not conflict with the state law in creating specific standards for the fluoridation substance, should one be re-introduced. There is no state law that says we must add contaminants such as lead and arsenic to our water supply, as the current chemicals do.”

Access to documentation that confirms these statements is available to all on the internet at www.Keepers-of-the-Well.org and www.fluoridealert.org, or by telephone at the national headquarters for Citizens for Safe Drinking Water at (800) 728-3833.


A statement of the reasons for the proposed action as contemplated in the petition is as follows (text of the proposed ordinance below):

1. Toxicological profiles report that total exposure to fluoride from all sources has risen to equal the original goal of fluoridation in non-fluoridated communities and now exceeds the original margin-of-safety in fluoridated communities; and

2. Commonly available sodas, fruit juices, teas, cereals, and produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, raisins, and citrus fruits contain significant concentrations of fluoride; and

3. There is no proven deficiency in fluoride exposures for any segment of a non-fluoridated community’s population; and

4. Scientific literature reports that the incidence of permanent scarring of children’s teeth in the form of dental fluorosis due to fluoride exposures has increased in non-fluoridated communities, and is occurring to more than 60% of children on at least one tooth in fluoridated communities; and

5. The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, because of the increased risk of dental fluorosis, have revised their recommendations for controlled-dose fluorides (drops, tablets, vitamins), prescribed in non-fluoridated communities as a substitute for fluoridated water, to levels below the expected dosages received through drinking fluoridated water; and

6. The cover story of the July 2000 Journal of the American Dental Association has clarified that any benefit of fluoride in reducing tooth decay, even from fluoridated water, is a result of topical application to the surface of the tooth, rather than systemic ingestion (swallowing); and

7. There are no labeling requirements for fluoride content in foods or beverages that would allow a discerning individual, or especially a parent of young children, to readily determine total fluoride exposure; and

8. Previous margins of safety for fluoridated water have been calculated on the assumption of a child drinking one liter of fluoridated water per day rather than the full range of actual consumption by all ages; and

9. Because the free-fluoride ion is smaller than the water molecule and is not removed by filtration devices, eliminating unwanted fluoride from tap water requires more expensive distillation or reverse osmosis systems that are not generally economically available to all segments of the population; therefore,

Be it enacted by the voters of the City of Palo Alto:

In order to ensure that the public water of Palo Alto is safe to drink, it shall be unlawful and a public nuisance for any person, agent, or any public or private water system, to add any fluoride or fluorine-containing product, substance, or chemical to the public water supply for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body of any person, as applied to the conditions herein:

1) The City shall immediately cease adding all fluoride and fluorine-containing substances for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body of any person to the public water supply.

2) Any future consideration by the City of Palo Alto or any other entity for the purpose of adding fluoride to the public water supply shall require:

a) an up-to-date assessment of total exposure to fluoride from all sources for all ranges of consumption in this specific community, by age, race, and ethnicity, as well as health and economic status;

b) documented approval for the specific substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness at dosages expected from the addition of unrestricted human water consumption to exposures from other-than-water sources, with a margin of safety that is protective of all known or anticipated adverse health or cosmetic effects for ingestion over an entire lifetime;

c) prohibition against the addition of any fluoride or fluorine-containing substance that contains contaminants at Maximum Use Levels that exceed concentrations established as California Public Health Goals or U.S. Maximum Contaminant Level Goals, whichever is more protective.

All laws to the contrary are hereby repealed.

If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity may not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are severable.