Report from Fluoride-Free Sonoma County
At their meeting on November 12, the Cotati City Council listened to their constituents, voting unanimously to protect the city’s residents from a proposal to add fluoridation chemicals to the drinking water supplied to Cotati by the Sonoma County Water Agency. With this vote, the Cotati City Council directed their staff to write a formal letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors informing the Board of their decision.
Kim Caldewey of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services made a multimedia presentation supporting water fluoridation, supported by testimony from Santa Rosa dentist Dr. Anthony Fernandez. Department of Health Services Director Rita Scardaci was present but did not speak.
In her presentation, Ms. Caldewey described an increase in dental-related visits to emergency rooms and charity dental clinics in Sonoma County between 2008 and 2012, and outlined unmet needs for dental care among the county’s economically disadvantaged children. She asserted that fluoridating the water supplied to the majority of the county’s residents in an attempt to reduce dental decay in this target demographic is the most cost-effective approach to addressing the issue.
The argument against water fluoridation was presented by Sonoma County Water Coalition co-founder Stephen Fuller-Rowell and Cotati thyroid specialist Richard Shames, MD. Additional testimony was provided by Santa Rosa dentist Dr. Laura Gaeta-Wilson.
North Marin Water District General Manager Chris DeGabriele described the technical issues involved with implementing the water fluoridation proposal.
Dr. Shames and Mr. Fuller-Rowell presented current scientific evidence that ingesting fluorine and fluoride compounds does not reduce tooth decay, has no statistically significant beneficial effect on dental health, and actually creates some types of dental and skeletal problems. Dr. Shames outlined the detrimental effects of fluorides on endocrine function and IQ. Mr. Fuller-Rowell explained how fluoridation would conflict with existing public policy and observed, “it’s time to move beyond the magical thinking from the 1950s that believed fluoride would give us all perfect teeth without affecting anything else in our bodies or in the world around us.”
All presenters agreed that increasing access to dental treatment, preventative care and effective oral hygiene training is necessary, differing only on the safety, efficacy, and legitimacy of community water fluoridation. All those who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting were in opposition to the proposed water fluoridation scheme.
In their discussion following the presentations, the members of the council cited a number of reasons for their unanimous vote against the proposal:
- the ethical issues of exposing residents to medication or drugs without their consent;
- the effect of fluoridation chemicals on the environment and wildlife;
- learning from past mistakes, such as draining wetlands, and not repeating them;
- concerns about the safety and lack of government regulation of the chemicals to be added to the water;
- the union of 1,500 EPA scientists, lawyers and engineers’ rejection of fluoridated water.
“Fluoridation is a 1960’s answer to a 1950’s problem, but the reality is we now live in the 21st century. In this day and age local governments recognize the myriad concerns raised by dosing our water supply and environment with chemicals, no matter how initially well intended” said Mark Landman, Mayor of the City of Cotati.
Cotati joins west coast cities of Portland, Oregon and Davis, California in rejecting the addition of fluoridation chemicals to public community water supplies earlier in the year. All of these cities are college towns with young, educated, politically active and environmentally conscious populations.
Clint Griess, Community Coordinator of Clean Water California, noted this trend. “The worst fear of water fluoridation proponents in California is the emergence of a politically sophisticated and dedicated movement to counter their well-funded, behind-the-scenes lobbying of local and state officials. People of every political persuasion are coming together and rapidly learning what it will take — personally and collectively — to defeat what we see as an affront to public health, the right to consent, and plain common sense.”
Fluoride-Free Sonoma County is a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to keeping the waters of Sonoma County clean, pure and free of fluoridation chemicals. www.fluoridefreesonomacounty.org