SANTA CRUZ: City Council Gives OK To Fluoridation Measure
"The Santa Cruz City Council has set the stage for the first legal challenge of the statewide fluoridation order with its 4-2 vote Wednesday to let the controversial dental health issue be decided by local voters," San Jose Mercury News reports. The council said that "the state had no right to decide whether fluoride should be added to a city water system." Mayor Celia Scott said, "I believe the question of freedom of choice is a significant issue. I could not accept fluoridation without a vote of the people saying that's what they want." The Mercury News reports that the contentious issue of whether public drinking water supplies should be fluoridated is particularly sensitive in Santa Cruz, "where additives to food or water are unpopular." While "two-thirds of the water districts around the country now fluoridate," a "persistent suspicion" about fluoridation has remained since the practice was initiated in the 1940s.
To Fluoridate Or Not To Fluoridate
In 1995, California passed a law that required water districts serving more than 10,000 customers to fluoridate the water "when funding is provided to do so." Sacramento has voted to fluoridate its water and Mountain View has shown its "support by approving a feasibility study on fluoridation." While there is currently "no funding to fluoridate" Santa Cruz's water, it is believed to be "a leading contender for funding because its dependence on a single water treatment plant would make it among the most cost-efficient systems to fluoridate." The controversy in Santa Cruz is being "watched closely by health officials and fluoride opponents because it is the first formal challenge of state law." The city's "defiance is seen as a test of the state's resolve to enforce its mandate," the Mercury News reports. The state has threatened to take the city to court to force it to comply with the law. However, "it was unclear who would fire the first legal salvo or how far the state would be wiling to go to enforce its will." Santa Cruz Councilman Scott Kennedy said the city "does not plan to put a fluoridation measure on the ballot unless the state presses the issue on the city." Dave Nelson, a fluoride specialist with the state Office of Dental Health Services, said, "The state has no plans to dump fluoride in anybody's water right now, particularly Santa Cruz's. We'll just wait and see what happens" (Woolfolk, 3/12).