Redding soundly rejected water fluoridation Tuesday when 12,177, or 56.3 percent, of the voters approved Measure A.
Fluoride proponents hoping to defeat the measure earned 9,437 votes, or 43.7 percent of the vote.
But it was unclear late Tuesday whether Measure A’s passage will bottle up the city’s proposed water fluoridation program. A state law ordering fluoridation in cities with 10,000 or more water hookups could trump the ballot initiative – but only if state officials enforce it.
Measure A supporters gathered Tuesday night at Leatherby’s Family Creamery, watching the issue gain ground throughout the night. They were ecstatic.
“I think it shows the people still have a voice,” said Donna Williamson, a Measure A supporter. “For me personally it came down to choice. I could not believe they were trying to force it (fluoride) on us.”
Measure A’s victory was especially gratifying because opponents had spent nearly $31,000 to defeat it, Williamson said. Citizens for Safe Drinking Water raised just under $7,000.
About a dozen Measure A opponents sat in a back room of the Shasta Community Health Center watching a TV and checking election returns roll in on a laptop.
“I see this as a minor setback. . . . This issue is far from over,” said Dean Germano, executive director of the Shasta Community Health Center and chairman of the Citizens for Healthy Smiles, a coalition of doctors, dentists and educators that raised nearly $31,000 in an effort to defeat Measure A. “I was concerned that the scare tactics would resonate in this community. It’s very unfortunate and in my view, very irresponsible.”
Shasta County Public Health Director Marta McKenzie said the numbers were deceptive and that this vote was closer than in 1962, the last time the fluoridation issue came up in Redding.
“Public Health is not going to withdraw its support of fluoride. It’s a nationally recognized oral health improvement,” she said.
Germano and McKenzie spearheaded the Shasta Oral Health Task Force, which lobbied the City Council to embrace water fluoridation. The task force lined up $2.3 million in mostly private grants to pay for the fluoridation and equipment and cover the cost of running it for a year.
The council voted 4-1 in September 2001 to go after the grant money. The pro-fluoridation majority included Mark Cibula and Pat Kight, who were both re-elected Tuesday.
However, the council has yet to accept the grant money. The California Dental Health Foundation, which would contribute $1.6 million to Redding’s fluoridation program, had insisted that the city run the equipment for 10 years or return the money. The city has refused.
Dr. David Nelson, the state Department of Human Services fluoridation consultant, coordinates efforts to boost water fluoridation under the 1995 law ordering the treatment in larger cities.
The dental health foundation would strike the 10-year requirement from its Redding offer, Nelson has said.
But the state won’t enforce the law where voters overwhelmingly reject fluoridation, Nelson has said. It was too soon to tell Tuesday how state officials would react to Measure A’s passage.
Measure A does not ban fluoridation outright. Instead, the measure forbids the city from adding chemicals to the water supply lacking federal Food and Drug Administration approval for their health claims.
The FDA has not approved hydrofluorosilicic acid, the fluoridation chemical Redding would use. Nor can it – the agency does not regulate public drinking water.
Reporter Scott Mobley can be reached at 225-8220 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Measure A, enacted by the voters of the City of Redding:
In order to ensure that the public water of Redding is safe to drink, it shall be unlawful and a public nuisance for any person, agent, or any public or private water system, to add any product, substance, or chemical to the public water supply for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body of any person, rather than to make water safe or potable, unless the substance meets the following criteria:
1) The substance must have been specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness with a margin of safety that is protective for all adverse health and cosmetic effects at all ranges of unrestricted consumption.
2) The substance, at Maximum Use Levels, must contain no contaminants at concentrations that exceed U.S. Maximum Contaminant Level Goals or California Public Health Goals, whichever is more protective.
If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity may not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are severable.