MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) – A task force is urging Monterey County officials to begin adding fluoride to the county’s drinking water.

The move began after a civil grand jury report earlier this month said it was time to fluoridate the water countywide.

Those in favor say fluoride cuts cavities in baby teeth by up to 60 percent and lowers decay in adult teeth by around 35 percent.

Opponents say fluoridation‘s benefits are unproven and adding the chemical to drinking water could cause health problems.

Scientific studies generally support claims that adding fluoride is beneficial to oral hygiene.

“It’s not an issue of science,” said Len Foster, the county health director. “The science is very clear. Fluoridation works.”

Debi Diaz, program director for the Children’s Oral Health Program of Monterey County, said the Community Water Fluoridation Task Force will begin to educate local lawmakers on the benefits of fluoridation.

“We’re taking our time,” she said. “We’re in phase one. It is a very controversial issue.”

State law requires communities to put fluoride in drinking water if local governments can pay for it. Foster said city councils and the Monterey County Board of Supervisors must be involved.

“It will require a commitment,” Foster said. “This issue needs to be addressed by the Board of Supervisors and city councils. That sends a clear message.”

Diaz said that initially the task force’s goal would be to get the California-American Water Company and California Water Service, which provide service to the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas area, to treat the water with fluoride.

Foster said the cost of fluoridation equipment would be around $3 million, with an annual cost of $750,000 to fluoridate the water after that.