The quibbling over fluoridation of drinking water seems destined to plague Davis County residents for years to come.
In addition to claims and counterclaims about the perceived benefits or harmfulness of fluoridation, now it looks like a lawsuit log will soon be tossed onto the fire of controversy.
In 2000, 52 percent of Davis voters approved countywide fluoridation. Opponents responded with a petition drive, and this week saw the Davis County Commission take no action on the issue, thereby allowing the fluoridation question onto the November ballot.
The county”s health department and chapter of Utahns for Better Dental Health — both strong advocates of fluoridation — are now talking openly about filing a lawsuit to stop the vote. They claim the fluoride opponents should have run a referendum campaign, not an initiative petition.
Ultimately, it appears, the courts may have to decide.
The Standard-Examiner”s editorial board has consistently supported the movement toward fluoridation of the water supply, primarily because Utah”s record of dental disease is lacking compared to most other states, and the record of fluoridation throughout the rest of the country has been a success story for 144 million Americans.
Furthermore, a decades-long history of water fluoridation is available in the Utah community of Brigham City, and at Hill Air Force Base. Fluoridation opponents routinely warn of mottled teeth, brittle bones, hip fractures, cancers and autism as the result of fluoride in the water. But Brigham City and Hill health officials, physicians and dentists haven”t sounded any alarms.
Indeed, several Brigham City dentists wrote this newspaper in support of fluoridation in the weeks leading up to the 2000 election.
Our only reservation in the fluoridation issue is over the grade of fluoride to be added to the drinking water supply. Fluosilicic acid has been chosen by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, as well as by Davis communities that will be fluoridating water from their own wells. Higher grades of fluoride are available, but cost is cited as the determining factor. That said, fluosilicic acid is the product used in 90 percent of the fluoridation processes in the nation.
If the re-vote goes forward, fluoridation may win again; it won for a second time in Centerville last year, after opponents forced a second vote on the matter. Can anyone doubt that opponents will mount yet another petition drive against fluoridation?
Then again, fluoride in the water may suffer defeat. In that case, though, what would stop fluoridation proponents from organizing yet another petition drive to place fluoride on the ballot in 2003 or 2004?
In fact, with so many thousands of dollars already invested in fluoridation infrastructure throughout Davis County, it seems a sure bet that fluoridation would be right back on the ballot in the near future should it lose in November.
And no one in the Legislature has yet stepped forward to say they”d be interested in putting an end to such single-issue petition madness.
That point aside, we believe fluoridation is wise public health policy, but we would like to hear more information about the various grades of fluoride available — and we”re certain lots of Davis residents share in our curiosity.