Fluoride Action Network

CDC Engineer Touts Fluoride’s Benefits

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune | May 17th, 2000 | by Kristen Moulton
Location: United States, Utah

WOODS CROSS — The national debate about fluoridated water — like the one shaping up in Utah this year — is purely political and emotional, a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention engineer said Tuesday.
One thing it’s not, said David Apanian, is scientific.
“Scientifically, [fluoridation] is absolutely safe. It is effective. There are thousands of studies showing it is safe and none by reputable researchers showing adverse health effects,” Apanian told water-system operators, elected leaders and public health officials from five Utah counties.
Apanian was invited to the Woods Cross High School forum by Utahns for Better Dental Health, a statewide coalition that is trying to get fluoride on ballots in November. Comprised mostly of public health officials, dentists and doctors, the coalition says drinking cavity-fighting fluoridated water will mean less pain in the wallet and the mouth for dental patients.
Only two Utah cities — Brigham City and Helper — currently fluoridate their water.
Opponents, who contend that fluoride is a dangerous toxin that should not be imposed on water users, have successfully kept fluoride out of most of Utah. The state’s water is the least fluoridated in the nation, both sides say.
So far, two city councils in Cache County — Logan’s and Nibley’s — have agreed to put fluoride to a public vote in November. Salt Lake, Weber, Davis and Utah counties are allowed by law to have countywide votes on the issue, but none is scheduled yet.
An initiative petition drive in Salt Lake County nearly has enough signatures to automatically put fluoride on November’s ballot, said Lewis Garrett, Salt Lake County’s health director.
Weber and Davis commissioners have indicated they will put fluoride on the ballot, but have made no final decisions.
Utah County commissioners are unlikely to put the issue before voters, so advocates there are collecting petition signatures to get it on city ballots.
Apanian told those attending Tuesday’s forum that opponents twist legitimate scientific studies out of context and use “pseudo-science” to appeal to the emotions. But that is working less often these days, he said.
A decade and more ago, two-thirds of public referendums for fluoride failed. These days, 70 percent to 90 percent of them are approved, he said.
That’s in part because fluoride has been used in public water systems for more than 50 years and has been proven safe and effective in reducing cavities, he said.
In the daylong forum, Apanian gave an overview of what equipment, fluoride compounds and techniques the cities and water providers might use if voters approve fluoridation.
While the average cost for U.S. cities is 50 cents per person per year, it can run as high as $3 to $5, he said.
Scott Paxman of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which provides much of Weber and Davis counties’ water, calculated it would cost $1.93 per person per year to add fluoride at five treatment plants and 78 wells belonging to the district and the cities.
Apanian said many cities choose to add fluoride only to their primary water sources to save money. If residents get the fluoridated water nine months a year, it is sufficient to provide protection against cavities, he said.
Fluoride opponents were not invited to Tuesday’s forum, and one of them, Clifford Ray Miller, angered organizers when he passed out anti-fluoride pamphlets and asked questions they believed were derailing Apanian’s lecture.
Miller was allowed to stay after he agreed not to disrupt the forum with his questions.