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Sebastopol votes to oppose county water fluoridation

The Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to join the City of Cotati in opposing fluoridation of Sonoma County's drinking water, even if its own water supply would not be directly affected.

The 5-0 vote came despite a written plea from county Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt, who asked the council to hold off on its discussion pending the completion of ongoing engineering, financial and wildlife studies related to the fluoridation proposal.

Study findings should be available later this year, along with results from an upcoming survey of local kindergarten and third-graders that may reveal what Rabbitt called "a 'silent epidemic' of dental disease."

"I don't even know where I stand on the issue right now — I've been leaning toward not doing it," Rabbitt said in an interview Wednesday. But "there's three major reports that are not complete. Why would you make a decision before you have those?"

The county is considering fluoridation as part of a multi-pronged effort to address an incidence of tooth decay that exceeds the state average, according to a 2009 county survey of local kids.

The 2009 survey found that more than half of Sonoma County third-graders had a history of dental decay, local health officials said. More than 16 percent had untreated decay.

Fluoride, a chemical compound, has been introduced in small amounts into the U.S. drinking supply since 1945 to improve dental health. Three-quarters of Americans on community water systems now get fluoride in their water.

The practice has been backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health Organization and the American Dental Association, which called water fluoridation "the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay."

But a growing chorus of skeptics across the country opposes fluoridation as both unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Among the various evidence they cite are warnings, even on toothpaste tubes, that caution against ingesting too much of the product.

The city of Sebastopol has an independent groundwater system and would not be directly affected by fluoridation of drinking water provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency to about 350,000 Sonoma County consumers.


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