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GUEST OPINION: The case against fluoridating water

The Sonoma County Water Coalition includes 31 organizations representing more than 24,000 concerned citizens. Coalition members strongly support policies for delivering medical and dental care to children, disabled adults and those in disadvantaged segments of our population. However, we do not support fluoridation of public water supplies.

Here's why most members of the coalition disagree with almost every organization in the medical establishment on the merits of fluoridation and oppose adding fluoride to drinking water:

<BL@199,12,11,10>Fluoridation is not the best way to improve dental health. World Health Organization data show greater dental health improvements in countries that do not fluoridate than in countries that do. For example, in 1978 the average Danish and Swedish 12-year-old had more than six decayed, missing or filled teeth. Twenty-seven years later, the average was less than one decayed, missing or filled tooth. Neither Denmark nor Sweden add fluoride to drinking water. Poor dental health appears to be a better indicator of an uneven distribution of wealth, education and health services than of a lack of fluoride. In fact, a growing number of communities in the United States are now ending their fluoridation programs.

<BL@199,12,11,10>Fluoridation comes with real health concerns. At levels only eight times greater than recommended, ingesting fluoride can lead to fluorosis (mottled teeth) and brittle bones which can increase the incidence of hip fractures in an aging community and other health problems. But because fluoride is added to toothpaste, soft drinks and other consumables, getting too much fluoride has become a risk for fluoridated communities.

In 2003, an organization representing more than 1,500 scientists, lawyers and other professionals employed by the Environmental Protection Agency published a statement of concern about the adverse health effects of fluoridation. In response, the recommended dosing level was lowered from 0.9 parts per million to 0.7 parts per million. This is an appropriate issue for applying the Precautionary Principle: If in doubt, don't do it.

<BL@199,12,11,10>How does fluoridation affect wildlife? Fluoride in water may pass through wastewater treatment plants and become an environmental contaminant. Before a water supply is fluoridated, there should be an assessment of the effect of this increased fluoride on fish.

<BL@199,12,11,10>Adding fluoride to water supplies is a form of mass medication and therefore an ethical issue. Any decision to use the public water supply as a delivery vehicle for mass medication requires the informed consent of water users.

The Sonoma County Task Force on Oral Health's June 2011 report recommended many other ways to improve dental heath: expanded access to dental care, increased education about dental health and improved surveillance and reporting.

We raise the issue now because sections 116409-116415 of California's Health and Safety Code require that all public water suppliers in California with more than 10,000 connections add fluoride to public drinking water. The state allocates no funds for this mandate. In February 2012, our Board of Supervisors instructed the Department of Health Services to re-evaluate the feasibility and costs of adding fluoride to Sonoma County's public water supplies and to report back to the board in early 2013.

If you think that taxpayer and ratepayer money should not be spent on fluoridating public drinking water, please contact Dr. Lynn Silver Chalfin at the Department of Health Services, the Sonoma County Water Agency or any of the water districts and cities that deliver water to homes in Sonoma County: the Valley of the Moon Water District, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sonoma, Windsor and the Forestville Water District.


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