Not satisfied with their efforts to kill a plan for addressing Sonoma County’s horrendous dental problem among children, the anti-fluoridation folks have turned their sights on Healdsburg, hoping to pull the plug on a program that has existed there for 62 years.
But their plan is the same. Armed with voodoo science and allegations about the seemingly horrific problems caused by fluoridation, they hope to scare voters into doing their bidding.
The public has reason to be wary — and should consider carefully what will be passed along as fact over the next five months.
First, little should be made of the fact that the Healdsburg City Council put this on the ballot. The council had no choice. Because the anti-fluoridation folks were able to gather enough valid petition signatures — just 600 were needed — the council had the option of either adopting the measure in full or putting it on the Nov. 4 ballot. This Hobson’s choice explains why the council immediately got to work on a statement opposing the measure.
Council members, including Mayor Jim Wood, a dentist, have been outspoken in their opposition to efforts to halt fluoridation. It’s a system that costs the city less than 6 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water delivered from Fitch Mountain — a total of about $40,000 a year — and, moreover, it works. “I think it’s a tremendous public health benefit,” Wood said earlier this month. “There is a lot of strong science to support that it is safe and it is effective.”
Second, it should be understood that while Healdsburg is the only city in Sonoma County to fluoridate its water, it’s the practice of not fluoridating that is the exception. Today, 72 percent of the nation’s population — roughly 200 million people — are served by public water systems that deliver fluoridated water. This includes just about all of the largest cities including New York and San Francisco.
It also should be understood that the primary reason the county is considering fluoridating its water is not because of an evil plot to harm residents, as opponents appear to claim. Quite the opposite. The proposal is in response to a 2011 county report detailing what it called “a staggering burden of suffering and a growing oral health divide between rich and poor” in Sonoma County.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to confront this crisis is through fluoridation. Studies have shown that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves an estimated $38 in dental treatment costs.
Nevertheless, the anti-fluoridation folks have been opposing the plan in full force, dragging out all kinds of extreme terminology to describe what is in many areas a naturally occurring phenomenon. But they have an added burden this time around. It’s not enough to scare voters with what may happen with fluoridation. Such arguments have an advantage in that it’s always difficult to prove a negative. This time, however, they need to demonstrate what has happened — how Healdsburg residents have been harmed by having their water fluoridated since 1952. Their challenge, in essence, will be to disprove a positive.
We look forward to seeing their analysis. But we don’t expect much. Voters shouldn’t either.