Efforts to fluoridate water in the county received a significant boost yesterday when a commission headed by Supervisor Ron Roberts allocated nearly $5.7 million for the cause.
The First 5 Commission of San Diego voted unanimously to use the money to pay for costs associated with fluoridation for seven water districts, beginning with the city of San Diego’s.
The money will go to areas that won’t be getting fluoridated water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California when it is scheduled to begin fluoridation next month.
“In some sense, we all feel it should have happened a long time ago, but that’s all the more reason to do it now,” Roberts said.
Fluoridation has been contentious in many parts of the country since Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first U.S. city to add the chemical to its water supply in 1945.
Supporters say fluoride is instrumental in preventing tooth decay, especially for underprivileged children who don’t receive proper dental care.
Opponents blame fluoride for causing cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and kidney damage.
San Diego is the largest U.S. city without fluoridation.
The money set aside yesterday comes from a 50 cent-per-pack tax on tobacco products in the state. Voters approved the tax in 1998 to invest in early childhood health and development programs. The First 5 Commission of San Diego was created to allocate the county’s portion of the $700 million collected annually.
State law requires public water systems with 10,000 or more connections to fluoridate their drinking water if the money becomes available to pay for the equipment and ongoing operating costs.
The five-member commission plans to pay for the city of San Diego’s capital costs plus two years of operating costs. If money is left over, six other water agencies – Oceanside, Poway, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, San Dieguito Water District and Sweetwater Authority – are in line to receive funds.