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Sonoma County considers authorizing more water fluoridation studies


The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to advance one of its most hot-button projects: a bid to introduce fluoride to most of the county’s drinking water to improve dental health.

A new county report concludes that move, though still in its study phase, would be feasible, although it could also be complex and expensive.

waterThe issue has been at the center of a long-running local debate, pitting medical experts and other supporters against critics skeptical of government-driven health initiatives and mainstream science.

The new report could bring fiscal watchdogs into the mix.

Based on preliminary estimates, the project could cost up to $8.5 million in capital upgrades to the county’s central water system, plus ongoing upkeep starting at $973,000 a year, the report found. It was released Thursday and authorized by the Board of Supervisors last year.

The project would affect three quarters of the county, including 350,000 residents served by the Sonoma County Water Agency in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma, Sonoma, Forestville and the Valley of the Moon. More than 50,000 Novato-area residents served by the county Water Agency also would get fluoridated water for the first time.

Pam Jeane, an assistant general manager at the Water Agency, called the project’s cost “significant” while noting that projects this summer, including aqueduct, pipeline and creek restoration work, are set to cost a total of at least two to three times more.

The potential impact on ratepayers is unknown. At least one Water Agency customer — the district serving the Novato area — contends state law forbids such costs being passed on to ratepayers. The district could challenge the move partly on those grounds.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to authorize additional financial analysis and engineering studies, at a cost of about $103,000. A final decision on water fluoridation could come late this year or in early 2014.

The latest interim step has reignited the decades-long local debate among supporters and opponents of water fluoridation for dental health. The standoff is likely to continue through two public meetings, including the Tuesday afternoon hearing before supervisors and one today, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. inside a county health office at 3313 Chanate Road in Santa Rosa.

Officials say water fluoridation would be a key way to combat what they’ve called a dental health “crisis” in Sonoma County. Studies have shown high rates of dental disease in the area, affecting especially low-income and minority children.

“We have a huge oral health problem,” said Dr. Lynn Silver Chalfin, the county’s health officer, who oversaw the new report to county supervisors.

Fluoride is a chemical compound and was introduced to U.S. drinking water nearly 70 years ago. About three-quarters of the nation’s population served by public water systems — or about 196 million people — are now receiving fluoridated water.

The measure is backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the surgeon general, the World Health Organization and the American Dental Association, which called it “the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay.”

But opponents of the county’s proposal continue to raise concerns about the health and environmental implications of fluoridated water. They cite studies found online and points promoted by a vocal national campaign that opposes municipal water fluoridation.

The topic has dominated a recent wave of letters to the county and lit up an online bulletin board frequented by local activists opposed to water fluoridation.

Mainstream experts say their concerns are largely overblown or taken out of context — in some instances from halfway around the world, where levels of naturally-occurring fluoride are many times higher than what’s allowed here.

Health problems, including cases of fluorosis, a cosmetic staining and pitting of the tooth surface caused when someone consumes too much fluoride, are rare in the United States, experts say.

“I hear the concerns,” said Francisco Trilla, chief medical officer of the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers and member of the county’s task force on oral health. “As a doctor, I can tell you I am not aware of a single long-term health outcome that is of concern. I know of no reason to be concerned about what’s being proposed. It has my full backing.”

Critics dismiss those assurances and the long list of expert endorsements, saying the risks — perceived or real — should steer the county away from fluoride and toward a greater focus on dental care access and education.

“Why do it when we have other options?” said Brenda Adelman, a Guerneville resident and longtime activist on Russian River water issues.

County officials say they are working on those options as well, pointing to ongoing projects promoting expanded access to dental care, preventative treatments and education. Several new efforts are going to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for approval.

Critics also accuse the county of overstating and dramatizing unmet dental care needs to push through an unpopular initiative.

The issue resurfaced in 2009, when a county survey found that 52 percent of Sonoma County third-graders had a history of dental decay, exceeding the state average.

The same study found that low-income kindergartners and third-graders had more than twice the level of untreated decay (21 percent versus 9 percent) as more affluent children. Nearly 7 percent of the children were found to be in need of “urgent” care.

Dentists say they see a need for fluoridated water on a daily basis.

“There’s no silver bullet for dental disease. But water fluoridation is definitely one of the tools,” said Stephen Chadwick, a Guerneville dentist with the non-profit West County Health Centers, which serves a large number of low-income and uninsured patients.

State law requires fluoridation for all public water suppliers in California with more than 10,000 connections. The unfunded 18-year-old statute has not been widely enforced.

Currently in Sonoma County, the only fluoridated water is delivered to residents of Healdsburg and the adjacent Fitch Mountain area.

Public comment at today’s meeting will be accepted at 4:05 p.m. Tuesday’s hearing also will be open to public comment.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

24 Responses to “Sonoma County considers authorizing more water fluoridation studies”

  1. Common Sense says:

    I grew up without fluoridated water and I have zero cavities to this day.

    I expected more from Sonoma County. You cannot trust anybody.

    Hasn’t one dolt reasoned that the intake of refined foods and sugars has more to do with the creation of cavities than fluoride has to do with the prevention of cavities.

    Fact is, a healthy population doesn’t make anybody money.

    Stop giving the poor people food stamps to buy coca cola, donuts, energy drinks, lucky charms, ice cream, white bread, and snickers bars and you will see your dental health problem go away in a few decades just like the diabetes problem.

    Extrapolating…take away animal products, alcohol, cigarettes, television, video games, and facebook and heart disease will go away too.

    Now, how do you solve a county’s dwindling intelligence problem?

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  2. James Bennett says:

    Even more censorship, eh Ted?

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  3. Bean Pole says:

    For the record, I am a unique individual that does not go by other psuedonyms. And was appaled by the sensationalism the Health Department displaye dtoday by having their guest speaker, a local dentist, play a recorded audio of a dental drill… really?

    Just the facts please. From both sides. I’d like to feel that I’m getting a true, unbiased show of the facts so I can make an informed decision for myself and my family.

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  4. James Bennett says:

    It’s a toxic industrial waste, a neurotoxin.

    The truck that delivers it to treasonous municipalities has a skull & cross bone icon.

    We’ve been lied to again.

    Kinda like flu shots.

    98% of Europe won’t do it.

    Australia and UK are in the grips of UN Agenda 21.

    But I guess we’re ‘the leaders’.

    I’m grateful for this tyranny as it is serving as an instrument of awareness for a broad section of Sonoma County citizens.

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  5. Reality Check says:

    Snarky, I responded to you twice. For reasons unknown nothing was posted. I try again.

    A simple web search would have confirmed what I said. But here goes. Use of fluoride:

    Austria – No
    Australia – About 70%
    Belgium – No
    Czech Republic – At one time, but no more
    Denmark – No
    Finland – One small city only
    France – 3% of population
    Germany – No
    Greece – No
    Ireland – Yes
    Japan – No
    Netherlands – At one time, but no more
    Norway – No
    Spain – About 10% of population
    Sweden – At one time, but no more
    Switzerland – Reversed. Salt is fluoridated
    UK – About 10% of population

    I accept your apology. Here’s the link:


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  6. Snarky says:

    “Bean Pole” = “Skeptical” = “Reality Check”

    The same immature clown pretending to be different people.


    The local Sonoma County Health Dept doesn’t conduct research.

    Well, for that matter, the Press Demo doesn’t do research, either. But thats besides the point.

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  7. GAJ says:

    Here you go Paul.

    “In addition to the KDF/GAC this unit has an Activated Alumina cartridge to effectively remove Fluoride from your drinking water.”


    But while I’m not anti fluoride per se I’m definitely against County fishing expeditions to come up with new and “exciting” ways to spend money we don’t have on marginal ideas while grossly underfunding one of their most basic missions which is road maintenance.

    The underfunding, as I’m sure you know, is not because they don’t have sufficient funds but because they choose to spend those funds gilding the Lilly in numerous other areas including gold plated benefits for themselves and the “elite” class of government employees including those in Public Safety and at the Water Agency.

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  8. Bean Pole says:

    Since the County Health Department is only interested in one side of the fluoride story, and their “report” doesn’t begin to touch all the science and studies around fluoride, why doesn’t the PD try doing a real investigative report into fluoride, the science, potential risks we hear about, what other countries have actually done or not done, and set the facts straight?

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  9. Snarky says:

    “Reality Check” :

    We’re all waiting for you to LIST the countries you claimed excluded fluoride and the countries you claimed “reversed” their positions to exclude it.

    Having a hard time finding some examples? LOL

    THE AMERICAN DENTAL ASSOC is far more reliable than your post of fictional countries :)

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  10. Wilson says:

    No on fluoride in our water. Spend the money where it’s really needed. Proper brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing are all that is needed. I know from experience.

    I had major cavity problems as a child. The problem was that although my dentist was a very nice guy, he was a quack. I wasn’t taught the proper way to brush and floss and I didn’t get a proper cleaning until after he retired. By then, I was in my early 20′s and I also had to have all of my prior fillings removed and replaced properly. I haven’t had a cavities since then. But many years later, they are wearing out and I’m getting crowns to replace them at well over $1,000 each.

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  11. Paul says:

    To GAJ: Tell me exactly what filter you are using that is capable of removing fluoride? I am betting what you are using does NOT remove fluoride. Normal filters don’t do it. Even the legendary BLACK BERKEY filters require another special filter to remove fluoride/arsenic from water. We’re talking EXPENSE here.
    How about folks just take responsibility for their teeth? Brushing 2-3 times a day and flossing every evening is not rocket science. As with EXERCISE, you just have to DO IT YOURSELF, rather than expect someone else to cover you.
    Eight million on the install and nearly a million a year for maintenance, in this economy? Again you are answering a question no one asked.
    Email your supervisors and tell them to knock this idea off.

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  12. GAJ says:

    Though I don’t buy the fluoride hysteria, this is MORE than enough for me to be completely against this idea:

    :Based on preliminary estimates, the project could cost up to $8.5 million in capital upgrades to the county’s central water system, plus ongoing upkeep starting at $973,000 a year, the report found. It was released Thursday and authorized by the Board of Supervisors last year.”

    In the first year it would be double the budget to fix dilapidated County roads which should be our primary focus…and 1/4 the budget for County Roads every year thereafter.

    Good Grief!

    Priorities County Sups, priorities!!

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  13. Skeptical says:

    What a ridiculous solution to a dental health issue. Is it really necessary that we ALL bath in flouride, wash our clothes in flouride, wash our dishes in flouride, and water the yard in flouride, in order to improve the dental health of just a portion of this community?

    I am happy to subsidize indigent dental care, but the proposal before the BOS is expensive, inefficient, and potentially harmful.

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  14. Snarky says:

    Reality Check:

    I already posted a rebuttal to you once but the Press Demo deleted my post.

    So, I’ll say it again.

    LIST the countries you claim chose not to use fluoride or reversed their decisions?

    You can’t because its not true :)

    Fluoride has been used across the country for half a century or more with the benefits seen clearly.

    The American Dental Association even supports the use of fluoride.

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  15. Steveguy says:

    Can I get the $5 MILLION contract for the study of fluoride in the waste water and it’s effect on wildlife, especially the Tiger Salamander ?

    What if I was ‘connected’ and have made generous contributions to politicians ? What if I had an organisation that it’s only purpose was to snag wasteful taxpayer spending ?

    Perhaps I was an idiot all along plodding along being self-employed. Shoulda got a guvmint job and be set. ( until the gov bubble bursts folks)

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  16. Reality Check says:

    It is surprising how many advanced countries have chosen not to fluoridate water, including several that reversed their initial decision. Switzerland adds fluoride to salt. Many countries make it a local option, with few opting for it. The US appears to be about the only country with an active campaign to adopt it.

    It’s unfortunate that opponents have gone the conspiracy route, accusing advocates of all kinds of nefarious things. I suspect proponents simply believe it’s beneficial. Me, I remain troubled at the thought of using a municipal water system to medicate the public. In this case, children may benefit while everyone else gets a dose with no known benefit.

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  17. Willy says:

    There is no denti-cal program, it was shut down in 2009. As for filtering out fluoride, a brita or other filter will not touch it. You will need a very special filter designed specifically for fluoride. Why not have county dentists go to these affected schools (as free volunteers) and have the kids rinse with a special fluoride rinse then spit it out, then take a napkin to put in the spit-out to throw in the garbage like we did when I was a kid? Or learn to brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste and spit it out? Much simpler and no riots!

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  18. Heath says:

    Let’s face it county would get extra funding to put floridation into our water. What about the workers who will get very sick just being exposed to this. Do the research. Its poison and is no help to preventing tooth decay. Wake up sheeple. Why trust filters, just don’t. We still live in dark ages, when all info is available on its horrors, dumbing down of our children, since we only 3% of brain. Greedy tools.

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  19. James Bennett says:

    More studies?

    Kinda like more traffic studies for ’roundabouts’.

    ICLEI has all the consultants they need.

    What do you want it to show?

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  20. GAJ says:

    For those of you who are against this simply buy a filter.

    We had one installed on our kitchen sink years ago and got rid of bottled water.

    Works great, will remove fluoride and costs less than $60/year for the filters.

    Or just buy the less convenient pitchers with replaceable filters.

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  21. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Here are a few links in support of:




    It’s a real shame that Sonoma County’s children’s teeth are rotting away because they can’t find any low cost dental care. If only every dentist would become Denti-Cal providers and take a few each the problem would be solved.

    At least we have a good quality children’s dental surgery in the county now. When our children’s teeth rot they can have them yanked, crowned, filled, and the rotten roots sucked out.

    Healthy teeth during a person’s lifetime results in better health overall.

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