SAN DIEGO — The county grand jury recommended yesterday that local cities and water districts fluoridate their drinking water, saying the ever-controversial treatment is “safe and effective in reducing tooth cavities.”
San Diego County is the most populous county in California with no fluoridation. The county lacks it even though a 1995 state law requires it in public water systems with more than 10,000 service connections, according to the 14-page jury report.
But these agencies are not breaking the law. It does not require taxpayers or water ratepayers to finance fluoridation systems if grant financing is available to pay for them.
Such systems would cost more than $6 million in the 14 cities and water districts in this county, the report said.
“The jury worked on this for many months,” said James T. McCarthy, grand jury chairman. “We interviewed knowledgeable sources on both sides, both proponents and opponents.
“It has only been in recent months that such funds have been made available to any water providers in San Diego County.”
The San Diego City Council in April ordered the city Water Department to create a plan to install a fluoridation treatment system expected to cost about $3 million.
The city has been offered a $4 million grant to do this by a charitable foundation, the California Endowment.
But some water providers in the county remain skeptical or of opposed to fluoridating water, and the grand jury hopes to change their minds.
“Studies over the last half century show that community water fluoridation is safe and is effective in reducing tooth cavities, especially among children,” the report said.
According to the report, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has found that “fluoridation was a major factor responsible for the decline of dental caries during the second half of the Twentieth Century.”
One fluoridation opponent was unmoved by the grand jury report.
“There is a divergence of opinion, there is no doubt about it,” said Escondido City Councilman Jerry Kaufman, a physical therapist with a biology degree.
He said the studies cited by proponents fail to prove that fluoridation is a safe and necessary means to prevent tooth decay.
“That (report) is strictly a recommendation; that’s all it is,” he said.
Kaufman said the Escondido council, which previously has opposed fluoridation, will consider drafting a response to the report at its June 14 meeting.
He is against fluoridation, he said, because: “It is the same substance that is on the state’s hazardous waste list, and it is being considered for use in our water. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Other opponents of fluoridation say it represents government intrusion into their personal lives.
The La Mesa-based Helix Water District was offered $375,000 in grant money in March to build a fluoridation treatment system.
But the district board wants to iron out several technical questions before accepting it, said Donald Gauthier, director of water quality and systems operations.
Gauthier said “our board is not against water fluoridation, but if we fluoridate our water it would affect four other agencies” that buy water from Helix. They are the Padre Dam, Otay, Riverview and Lakeside water districts, also in East County.
The jury report recommended that leaders of the Helix district and the cities of Escondido and San Diego seek grants to fluoridate their water. It also urged the county and other agencies to help cities and water districts find grant money to do the same.