Healdsburg asks 'Save Our Smiles’ to write pro-fluoridation ballot argument

Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood is a dentist who believes in the effectiveness of fluoridated water in combating tooth decay. But he won’t be writing the argument against a November ballot measure to remove fluoride from the city’s water.

Wood on Monday night convinced his fellow council members to have a group of health professionals instead write a defense of fluoride for voters to consider.

“They have more expertise than I on this issue,” he said of Save Our Smiles, a loose group of professionals he said has worked on fluoridation issues in Sonoma County.

Healdsburg, the only city in Sonoma County to fluoridate its water, has been doing so since voters approved the practice in 1952. But a group of anti-fluoride activists gathered more than sufficient signatures to put the issue on the ballot to try to get voters to end fluoridation.

It’s part of an even larger struggle activists are waging to keep fluoride from being added to the Sonoma County Water Agency’s system, which is delivered to Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Windsor, Sonoma Valley and northern Marin.

The proposal — including how fluoride might affect fish — is currently being studied, with the findings to be delivered to the board of supervisors, probably by the end of the year, Sonoma County Director of Health Services Rita Scardaci said Monday.

Defenders of fluoridated drinking water say the evidence shows it is overwhelmingly safe and prevents tooth decay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Dental Association all stand behind it.

But fluoride critics claim it is a toxic hazard that can cause fluorosis, or discoloring of the teeth, as well as skeletal fluorosis, leading to pain in the bones and joints, and other medical issues.

They say it amounts to a form of mass medication that isn’t necessary when people who want fluoride can get it in toothpaste, mouthwash or by visiting their dentist.

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