If you don’t know anything about the water-fluoridation proposal going on the ballot in November, never fear: You will soon be receiving an information pamphlet detailing its pros and cons.
But be warned: At least in Salt Lake County, your eyesight will have to be exceptional or your bifocals well-adjusted to make any sense of the flier.
“Get out your magnifying glass,” said Ryan Mecham, administrative assistant to County Commissioner Mark Shurtleff.
The county proposes condensing almost four pages of information, for and against fluoridation, onto one page to lower printing and mailing costs.
“If you add even one more panel the cost really goes up,” said Alan Dayton, the county staffer in charge of the mailing.
The county will mail the brochure to all registered voters’ households in Salt Lake County. The lower of two bids the county received puts the cost of printing, folding, tabbing, addressing and mailing the brochures at 18.5 cents each. That doesn’t seem like much until you multiply it by 230,000, resulting in a $42,550 cost.
The brochure’s content will consist of arguments for and against fluoridation, written by volunteer groups on each side.
Fluoridation supporters cite statistics saying fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 50 percent, ranges in cost from 12 cents to $3 per person per year and is supported by numerous health organizations including the Utah Medical Association, Utah Dental Association and Academy of LDS Dentists. It notes that more than 70 percent of the country’s drinking water is fluoridated.
Opponents say fluoride usually used to fluoridate water is a toxic byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry that cannot be legally dumped in the ocean. They cite research showing effects of overdose including mottled teeth, bone weakness and increased blood lead levels in children. What’s more, they say, “it is morally wrong to force people to take a medication without their consent or against their will, particularly when there are good alternatives available.”
Who’s right? Tough call. The area is sufficiently shaded in gray that activists can make just about any argument and back it up with research from somewhere. That very thing, county commissioners say, is what prompted them to take it to the voters in the first place.
“I think both parties have done a good job articulating the arguments” in the flier, Commissioner Brent Overson said.
Officials in Davis County are also putting together an information flier, since the question is also on their ballot.
Just remember: This is one time you want to read the small print.