Representatives of the Utah Association of Local Boards of Health are calling on commissioners of Utah and Davis counties to put the fluoride issue on the November ballot.
Gayle Judd, Pleasant Grove, president-elect of the association and chairman of the Utah County Board of Health, said local health departments want the issue on the ballot.
Utah County Commissioners have declined because they say the state law authorizing the fluoride vote simply does not fit Utah County.
The law allows counties with their own water systems to place the issue on the ballot, but Utah County does not have a water system.
Judd said the association and Utahns for Better Dental Health want the issue on the ballot, even if it is just a referendum to show public support.
“A lot of forward-moving people from all walks of life organized and gave untold hours of lobbying to get SB-158 passed at the Utah State Legislature so that their constituents … could have the opportunity to vote,” Judd said.
She said vocal opponents have slowed the educational process in Utah on the benefits of fluoride. “They have also applied political pressure to elected authorities. However, they have scant evidence from experts and inconclusive results from reputable studies concerning fluoride.
“Every reputable agency in the country recommends that we take advantage of an inexpensive means of improving oral health,” she said.
Fluoride has been added to America’s water supplies for 50 years at between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per millions as an inexpensive method of preventing tooth decay in children and adults. Supporters say it is safe.
Unlike 62 percent of Americans, only 3 percent of Utah residents drink fluoridated water. That leaves just Nevada, at 2 percent, with less fluoridated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has called the addition of fluoride to water supplies one of the century’s most significant advances in public health and credited it with a sharp decline in cavities in children in the second half of the 20th century.
But opponents, although the minority, are well-organized and passionate about their cause. From the Cold War-era claims that communists were trying to spike the water, the foes of fluoride now say it’s forced medication with a substance that can cause a host of health problems in the general public.
So far, only Brigham City, Helper and Hill Air Force Base add fluoride to their water supplies.
But opponents say putting the issue on the ballot is a mistake.
“That’s an overstep, that’s putting fluoride on the fast track,” said Rosemary Minervini, president of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, a group opposing fluoridating public water supplies.
Minervini said that although fluoride opponents are often sidelined from mainstream discussions on the topic, new studies show that fluoride can contribute to brittle bones and high lead levels in children.
She says the fluoride in water is not the same as in toothpaste and that it basically amounts to a rat poison.
And, no, she does not believe fluoridation is a communist plot.
“That’s just a way of detouring people from the issue itself. We’re not going to say any of that garbage,” she said of the Red Scare rumors.