Sixty-two years ago, Healdsburg had the foresight to join a growing number of cities across the nation in adding fluoride to its water. Since then, generations of community children have grown up benefiting from that vote for dental health.
On Nov. 4, Healdsburg residents are being asked to pull the plug on that same program, all on the basis of fuzzy science, fanaticism and fear. We encourage residents to vote yes on Measure P, which calls for preserving the city’s fluoridation program.
This is not about cost. The fluoridation system costs Healdsburg less than 6 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water delivered from Fitch Mountain — about $40,000 a year. It’s a cost-effective program. Studies have shown that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves an estimated $38 in dental treatment costs.
Fluoridation is one of the easiest ways to confront dental problems, which is why Sonoma County supervisors have directed staff to continue studying the possibility of fluoridating the water supply as a way of addressing Sonoma County’s horrendous dental problem, particularly among children. Opponents of fluoridation in the county apparently believe that the best way to stop the county in moving ahead with its efforts is to persuade Healdsburg to pull the plug on its own. It shouldn’t.
As we noted this summer, the burden is on opponents of Measure P to disprove a positive — to demonstrate how Healdsburg residents have been harmed by having their water fluoridated since 1952. They can’t. There is no evidence. Instead, they throw up pejorative terms and voodoo science to cast doubt.
In their ballot argument, for example, they point to a controversial 2012 report from Harvard researchers that suggests fluoridation reduces IQs in children. Those researchers have since sought to distance themselves from anti-fluoridation advocates who have tried to misrepresent their findings. The studies, most of them in China and Iran and not directly available to U.S. readers, reportedly suggest that very high levels of fluoride could be linked to lower IQs among schoolchildren. But the studies are said to be of poor quality, and the data are not applicable in the U.S., where fluoridation levels are closely monitored and are far lower.
Today, 72 percent of the nation’s population — roughly 200 million people — are served by public water systems that deliver fluoridated water. This includes just about all of the largest cities, including New York and San Francisco. Furthermore, more than 8 million people in the nation live in areas where drinking water is naturally fluoridated. If the consequences of fluoridation were really as dire as the opponents of Measure P contend, they should be able to point to real evidence of harm. They can’t.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized water fluoridation as one of the “10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” The CDC ranks it up there with seat belts and the recognition of the dangers of smoking.
The fact is the science behind the anti-fluoridation campaign is the same as the sketchy science fueling the anti-vaccination campaign in schools. Given the rapid rise of whooping cough and measles cases in California, it’s children who are paying the cost.
Healdsburg residents should not be conned into following that path. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Measure P.