WOODS CROSS (AP) — The public debate about fluoridated water has nothing to do with science, according to an engineer with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Scientifically, (fluoridation) is absolutely safe,” David Apanian told water-system operators, elected leaders and public health officials from five Utah counties Tuesday. “It is effective. There are thousands of studies showing it is safe and none by reputable researchers showing adverse health effects.”

Apanian spoke at the Woods Cross High School Forum at the request of Utahns for Better Dental Health, a statewide coalition that is trying to get fluoride on ballots in November.

The group, which includes dentists and doctors, 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 — put fluoride in their water.

Opponents contend that fluoride is a dangerous toxin that should not be imposed on water users. They have successfully kept fluoride out of most of Utah, and the state’s water is the least fluoridated in the nation.

So far, the Logan and Nibley city councils have agreed to put fluoride to a public vote. 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 has almost enough signatures to automatically put fluoride on November’s ballot, according to county health director Lewis Garrett.

Weber and Davis commissioners have indicated they will put fluoride on the ballot, but have made no final decisions.

In 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 said that 70 to 90 percent of referendums for fluoride are approved, compared to 10 years ago, when two-thirds failed.

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.

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.