Sonoma came out publicly on Monday night in opposition to adding fluoride to drinking water supplied by the Sonoma County Water Agency.
It was the second time in the past two weeks that council members heard from anti-fluoridation activists, dentists and residents about water fluoridation. However, they emerged this time around with a 3-2 decision to send a letter of opposition to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
“I’m a farmer,” Mayor David Cook said. “We worry about our land. We worry about the water underneath us.”
“When we’re talking about putting fluoride in the water . . .,” he added, “I would vote against that.”
Cook and council members Rachel Hundley and Gary Edwards voted in favor of sending the letter, while Laurie Gallian and Madolyn Agrimonti opposed the move.
“There’s still information out there that has yet to be released to us,” Gallian said, adding the county still is doing research on the fluoridation issue.
“This is, I feel, too soon to be sending this letter,” she said.
County health officials are pushing to add fluoride to the water, saying it is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay and reduce dental care costs. Officials estimate it will cost up to $587,000 a year to inject fluoride into the drinking water.
Sonoma gets about 95 percent of its water from the agency. However, on average, less than 1 percent of the water is actually consumed, city officials aid.
“My problem is the delivery system,” Edwards said.
He said there are better ways of getting fluoride to those who need it to combat cavities.
“Government should work on other ways to change our health,” he said.
Cook put forward the issue before the council after anti-fluoridation activist Dawna Gallagher-Stroeh reached out to him, urging him and other council members to oppose fluoride. She called the chemical dangerous and the science surrounding water fluoridation faulty.
“This is a time in history where you are on the correct side of this thing,” Gallagher-Stroeh said.
The City Council argued in the letter that it would be “far more effective” to focus on providing “more access to affordable dental care” and nutritional education than spending money to add fluoride to the water.
It’s an argument Sonoma resident and dentist Anthony Fernandez challenged. “Even though only a small amount of fluoridated water reaches the consumer, its ability to reduce dental decay is significant,” he said in a letter to the council.
He said it’s particularly important for low-income families, some of which have little access to dental care and tend to experience higher decay rates.
“The expense of the fluoride for the water for an entire household for a year costs less than a tube of toothpaste, and reduces dental decay at comparable rates,” said Fernandez, who also serves as the chairman of the Redwood Empire Dental Society Fluoridation Committee.
He had urged council members to wait.
“There’s no harm to become better informed,” Fernandez said during the meeting, where council members also wrestled with another contentious debate: whether to revisit a possible ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.
No decision was made on whether or not to prohibit the use of leaf blowers. However, council members weren’t ready to blow off the issue. Staff was asked to come back in May with suggestions on how best to move forward with the issue that’s come before the city previously.