And while the council has no authority to change the fluoride mandate, Nicholl said she would support a ballot initiative to repeal the last one “if that’s what our residents want.”
Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman and environmental health scientist with the Salt Lake County Health Department, said he understands that the situation has caused concern among residents across the county. But he stressed that in the time since 59 percent of voters approved an initiative in 2000 to require fluoride in culinary water ? a mandate that was implemented in 2003 ? the county has never had a problem with over-fluoridation.
“As someone who drinks our community water like everyone else, I absolutely understand their concern,” he said. “It makes sense, given what happened. But I think we also need to recognize that the incident in Sandy was an extraordinarily rare malfunction.”
For children younger than 8, Rupp said fluoride helps strengthen the adult teeth they’re developing under their gums. And for adults, drinking water with fluoride supports existing tooth enamel, keeping teeth strong and healthy.
“I don’t think we should discount the many years of positive benefits that we’ve received as a community,” he said.
In the wake of the incident in Sandy, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, which provides water to most of the southwest area of Salt Lake County, is also working to educate its users on fluoride.
Linda Townes, the organization’s public information manager, said there has never been an incident associated with fluoride at any of its water treatment facilities, each of which has monitoring equipment and regular field testing to verify its machines are working properly and not releasing unsafe quantities of the mineral.
“We don’t want people to be afraid,” she said. “I can see why this is a scary situation, but we take fluoride very seriously. It’s actually a hazardous chemical, and we deal with it very vigilantly because we don’t want something like this to happen.”
Not all counties in Utah have mandated fluoride in their drinking water. The Utah Health Department said that is up to individual communities and that it doesn’t track which do. Residents can check to see fluoride rates in their area at https://health.utah.gov/oralhealth/fluoride.php.