Fluoride opponents are seeking another vote on the issue of water fluoridation in Salt Lake County next year through a petition drive, with ballot wording that essentially would have residents voting either against fluoridation or in favor of placing toxic waste in their water.
Opponents of fluoridation say the way the question is worded will “appeal to many of the people who were duped into voting in favor of fluoride back in 2000.”
Those in favor of fluoride say it is deceptive.
A ballot initiative opponents have labeled the Salt Lake Safe Drinking Water Act, announced Friday by petition organizers, needs 30,000 signatures in Salt Lake County before July 1, 2002, to qualify for a countywide vote in November 2002. If the petition is placed on the ballot, it would ask voters to decide whether or not they want water that is “safe to drink.”
If the majority of voters answer in the affirmative, it would essentially make it impossible to fluoridate public water supplies. The initiative implies that a “no” vote will permit water that is full of toxins and hazardous waste.
“This is requiring them to put a fluoride in that is FDA-approved and that is not toxic. . . . If (residents) vote ‘no,’ then they will get contaminated fluoride,” said David A. Hansen, who is organizing a petition drive among Davis County residents.
He says the fluoride that county health officials are now planning to use is unsafe, and residents should have the option of voting for a different substance. Although it appears voters will be deciding which fluoride the county should use in implementing fluoridation, the initiative states that only FDA-approved fluoride can be used and no such thing exists, Hansen admits.
“It will kill fluoride unless the FDA comes out and approves something,” he said, which could be years away, if ever, and which would probably be more expensive than what is currently planned.
Anthony Tidwell, a strong supporter of fluoride and former chairman of Salt Lake Valley Board of Health, said the petition initiative is “fanatics trying to spread rumors that aren’t true.”
The reason the Food and Drug Administration does not approve fluoride is because it is not under the administration’s jurisdiction, said Tidwell, who recently sat on a legislative fluoride task force that approved local fluoridation standards.
“They do food and drug. The FDA is not involved in this one,” he said.
The fluoride substance that health officials want to put in the water is completely safe and has been approved by the Water Works Association, the federal government and environmental agencies, Tidwell said.
“I’m concerned. (Opponents) have to go to deceptive practices to scare the public,” Tidwell said. “It is safe, and I can’t wait to get it in the water.”
The petition circulating in Davis County, however, is a simple revote on the issue of fluoridation. The vote was close enough in the 2000 election in Davis County that Hansen says he thinks it will go the other way this time and fluoride will be voted down. Opponents in Davis must collect about 8,300 signatures to have the issue placed on the ballot.
Salt Lake and Davis counties voted in favor of adding fluoride to public water supplies in November 2000 after fluoride advocates in Salt Lake collected signatures to place the issue on the ballot and proponents in Davis urged the county commission to place the issue on the ballot.
Both opponents and proponents campaigned heavily in the months preceding the vote to sway voter opinions, with those in favor of fluoridation arguing the substance is a cheap, safe way to prevent tooth decay, and opponents arguing that the substance is dangerous and that placing it in the water infringes on the rights of the water consumer.
“This time we will have the proponents playing defense,” reads a news release from the opponents.
Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County Clerk, says the format of the petition has been approved, but its legality has not yet been determined. The district attorney’s office will review the petition’s legal standing only after all of the signatures have been collected and verified and the petition has been submitted.
Petition organizers are planning a series of open houses where people can pick up petitions and discuss the issue.