Fluoride Action Network

Conflict over fluoridation far from over

Source: Davis County Clipper | August 28th, 2003 | by Melinda Williams
Location: United States, Utah

Most all of the cities in Davis County are fluoridated now, and even the lone hold-out — Layton — is knuckling under and installing fluoridation equipment.

But just because the fluoridation order seems to be a done deal, fluoride foes aren’t just sitting back and grumbling about losing the battle. They still believe they can ultimately win in a 2004 election which would have Davis County cities and the Weber Basin Water District turning off the fluoridation

Kaysville resident Dave Hansen, chairman of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, is optimistic that fluoride won’t flow past the 2004 election.

The group has asked 2nd District Judge Glen Dawson to lift an injunction on the initiative petition calling for a re-vote on mandatory fluoridation. If the injunction is lifted, it will allow the issue to be placed on the 2004 General Election ballot.

Hansen said if Dawson lifts the injunction his group is hopeful the judge will require Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings to place the issue on the 2004 ballot.

Hansen said signatures gathered before the 2000 election are still valid as they have no expiration date. He adds that the petition conforms to HB 64, passed in this year’s legislative session, which allows a revote on the fluoride issue in 2004.

Hansen has also asked the group’s attorney, George Diumenti, to look at possible litigation related to inappropriate spending of money by the county to influence a ballot proposition.

He said he will also be working on getting a bill passed in the legislature that will make it illegal for boards of health to spend public money on ballot issues.

“It’s disturbing that a vote can occur when the government, with its unlimited supply of taxpayer dollars, can spend those dollars to sway an election that harms the rights of so many citizens,” Hansen said.

While it cost the cities and Weber Basin thousands of dollars to put in fluoridation equipment, it will cost nothing to shut it off, if that is the voters’ desire, according to Hansen.

“We’re not asking that the equipment be removed, just that the fluoride pumps be turned off,” he said. “That requires a flick of the switch, not thousands of dollars.”

Hansen believes switching off the pumps will save money in the long run because fluoride’s acidity won’t be eating away at the pipes at the insertion points. And in the future, cities won’t have to replace the pumping equipment as it reaches the end of its life cycle.

Further, he said, additional money will be saved because cities won’t have to pay for the chemical or monitor the flow of fluoride into the water.

Hansen said that some cities chose equipment that can also be used to dispense chlorine, a necessary additive to water, “so even the equipment may not necessarily be useless.”

Since the fluoride has been flowing, Hansen and others opposed to fluoridation have been avoiding drinking tap water in a variety of ways.

Hansen travels to North Ogden every few weeks with a utility trailer and several five gallon bottles to fill at an artesian well there. Others have purchased reverse osmosis filters or buy bottled water. One family, Hansen claims, moved to North Ogden to avoid drinking fluoridated water.

“One of the biggest difficulties is providing unfluoridated water for our children while they are at school,” he said. “With all that kids must carry in their backpacks, packing an additional water bottle is a terrible burden.”

The impetus for all the trouble fluoride foes are going through to avoid drinking tap water remains the issue of the safety of fluoride and the question of its effectiveness.

“Swallowing fluoride to prevent cavities is like swallowing a condom to prevent pregnancy,” Hansen said.

He believes that if the chemical works at all, it works topically. “Despite years of fluoridation, both Boston and Cincinnati still have major dental crises,” Hansen contends. “Several more European countries have banned fluoridation recently.” Fluoride proponents, however, contend that such conclusions are both faulty and misleading.

Among those issues is the level of lead in the chemicals used to fluoridate water. Hansen said that a study conducted at Dartmouth University shows very high blood levels of lead in communities using either fluorosilicic acid or the powdered fluorosilicates; advocates counter that lead levels introduced by fluoridation tend to be lower than what’s already in the water.

Due to such worries, however, Hansen says many in Davis County will conclude that the risks simply aren’t worth a small reduction in cavities.

With respect to the public retaining fluoridation if it came to a vote in 2004, Hansen said, “we have a hunch that voters will overwhelmingly say ‘no.’ ”