Plans to add fluoride the Newport Beach’s water supply will go ahead next month, despite outcry from a group of citizens and a subsequent City Council vote to ask the water district for a delay. Some Newport residents say they worry about negative health effects associated with fluoride, but most experts say the water additive is harmless and has been proven to prevent tooth decay.
“The argument against fluoride in the ’50s was that fluoridation was a communist plot,” said Jon Roth, executive director of the California Dental Assn. Foundation. “It’s strange how the scare tactics have changed over the past 50 years. Of course, the overwhelming evidence says that it’s safe and effective.”
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California representatives said Friday it will begin phased water fluoridation at its facilities Monday, which serve some 18 million Southern Californians. Fluoridation at the Robert B. Diemer treatment facility in Yorba Linda, which supplies 18% of Newport’s drinking water, will begin Nov. 19. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the water district to delay fluoridation, after impassioned pleas from many residents.
Newport Beach resident Larry Porter, one of several residents who spoke against fluoride Tuesday, asked council members to read the warning on toothpaste boxes before voting.
“‘Warning: Keep out of reach of children under six years of age,’” Porter read aloud. “That’s the fluoride Why would we want to put it in our water?”
Opposed community members say hydrofluosilicic acid, the chemical to be added at treatment facilities, is toxic and little data exists that shows its effects on animals and people.
A safety data sheet citizens submitted to the City Council Tuesday claims no data is available on the chemical’s potential to be toxic to animals when inhaled or otherwise ingested.
The fact sheet, provided by a chemical company, also shows the chemical is corrosive to the skin and eyes and that it may cause irritation or burns.
“I would have never had made this up because I didn’t know about any of this before,” Newport resident Dolores Otting said at the council meeting.
Fluoridation is effective at preventing tooth decay, according to the American Dental Assn. Agencies that officially recognize the health benefits of fluoridation range from the World Health Organization to the U.S. Department of Defense.
“The benefits far outweigh any sort of risk,” said Denis Wolcott, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “California is really one of the last states to do this on a large-scale basis.”
For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs, according to the association. Of the largest 50 cities in the United States, 42 have adopted fluoridation.
“They’re trying to say one-size-fits-all, but just read the toothpaste. One size does not fit all,” Porter told council members Tuesday.
Based on data for 2000 from the American Dental Assn., about 162 million people, or two-thirds of the population, in the United States are served by public water systems that are fluoridated.
“It works across the community; if you’re rich or poor, you get the same benefit, so it’s a very socially just way to treat tooth decay,” Roth said. “If you’re indigent, it could be a problem for you to spend $4 on something like fluoridated mouthwash.”
Newport residents against water fluoridation say chemical additives that fluoridate municipal water supplies come from industrial waste.
That simply isn’t true, Roth said.
“That’s one of the many urban myths surrounding fluoridation. There is an industrial process that it goes through, but it’s not industrial waste or some kind of bi-product at all,” he said.
Fluoridation additives are regulated for safety by the Environmental Protective Agency and other federal agencies, Roth said.
The Internet has given rise to many sources on water fluoridation that aren’t credible, Wolcott said.
“Science has been pretty clear on the benefits of fluoridation,” Wolcott said. “In the age of the Internet, stuff gets posted online, and there’s no way to evaluate if its credible. It’s not peer-reviewed science.”