Sonoma County Board of Supervisors weighs next step in fluoride plan

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday could take the next step in a long-proposed plan to add fluoride to most of the county's drinking water.

The move is intended to improve dental health and is a common practice across the country, recommended by leading national and international health agencies. But it has sparked emotional protests from a wide range of opponents concerned about health implications and other issues.

The county has been studying the proposal for a year. A feasibility report examining health and legal issues is due out Thursday and will be the subject of a public meeting Friday, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at a county health office at 3313 Chanate Road in Santa Rosa.

Dr. Lynn Silver Chalfin, the county's health officer, declined on Tuesday to discuss the report's findings.

Rita Scardaci, the county's health services director, said on Wednesday that the report does not make any "definitive recommendation" on the introduction of fluoride.

But county health officials continue to back that move, pointing to what they've called an oral health "crisis" among Sonoma County children, especially those from low-income families.

The Board of Supervisors last February backed study of water fluoridation as a key way to address the problem.

On Tuesday the board is set to consider approving the next step: a six-month, $103,000 study of the engineering changes necessary to fluoridate local drinking water.

The 2:10 p.m. hearing is likely to draw a large crowd, and pit supportive health officials against skeptics and activists who oppose the practice.

Water fluoridation 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 it "the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay."

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