By Alan Pryor
After reviewing the scientific data for more than two months, the Management Committee of the Sierra Club Yolano Group unanimously voted to oppose fluoridation of Woodland and Davis potable water. The committee cited the following health, environmental and social equity concerns when announcing its opposition:
* Water fluoridation has been shown to be generally ineffective in reducing cavity rates in disadvantaged communities and the general population. The predominant benefits of fluoride on dental health are topical and can be achieved through use of fluoridated toothpastes, mouth washes and dental lacquers.
* Drinking fluoridated water has proven adverse side-effects, including widespread fluorosis (mottling and discoloration of tooth enamel) and, less commonly, hypersensitivity (affecting dermatologic, gastrointestinal and neurological systems). Fluoridation of water used to reconstitute dried baby formula is particularly problematic because of the high risks of increased fluorosis of unerupted baby teeth.
* Ingestion of fluoridated water also has been statistically linked to a number of other adverse side-effects, including increased risk of bone cancer in teenage males, and increased risk of bone brittleness and skeletal fluorosis with risks of fractures, particularly in the elderly. Water fluoridation also has been linked with interference of normal thyroid function (hypothyroidism) and increased risks of neurological problems including decreased IQ.
* Fluoridating Woodland and Davis water is estimated to release more than 24 tons of fluoride per year into the environment through irrigation of home yards and parks or released into our wetlands from each city’s wastewater treatment plan. Fluoride has a variety of adverse environmental impacts on aquatic flora and fauna and bioaccumulates in many living organisms.
* The chemical most commonly used to fluoridate water, hexafluorosilicic acid, is a waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry and is only purified to industrial grade (not pharmaceutical grade). Industrial grade hexafluorosilicic acid contains numerous contaminants such as arsenic and lead, for which a public health goal of zero exists.
* The Davis-Woodland Surface Water Project was sold to the residents of these cities with the express promise that it would be clean and pure and not require residents to purchase bottled water to avoid contamination in their drinking water. The Yolano Group opposes the addition of anything to our water supplies that is not required to ensure safety of the water supply itself.
* Fluoride is an “unapproved drug,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Yolano Group Management Committee is concerned about the implications of the government medically dosing its citizens without individual informed consent. The Sierra Club Yolano Group also values the precautionary principle, so the possibility that fluoridation possibly could adversely affect some members of society leads us to choose against universally dosing everyone.
* There are far more effective methods of dealing with the social injustice of poor dental health in disadvantaged communities than water fluoridation. This is especially true if the same money proposed to be used to fluoridate the water is instead devoted to preventative and restorative dental health care for low-income populations. Many prominent minority advocates and organizations (including the League of United Latin American Citizens, some NAACP chapters and Andrew Young) oppose fluoridation due to the disproportionate adverse effects on minority populations.
* Although we should strive to address all dental health problems, rural Yolo County communities that are also not fluoridated and portions of major metropolitan cities in California that have been fluoridated for decades show higher rates of dental caries than Woodland and Davis. The Yolano Group believes providing better access to dental health care in susceptible disadvantaged populations is the primary effort that should be made to reduce cavity rates.
The Yolano Group Management Committee is firmly committed to fighting social inequality and shares the concerns of poor dental health wherever it exists. Proponents of fluoridation sincerely, but mistakenly, believe water fluoridation will address this dental health problem comparatively inexpensively.
However, the Yolano Group Management Committee believes that water fluoridation not only fails to solve the social inequities of poor dental health care access but instead introduces a host of other major health and environmental problems. The Yolano Group Management Committee concludes that safer and more effective means of addressing dental health care inequities exist than mass water fluoridation and thus opposes this proposed water fluoridation strategy.
— Alan Pryor of Davis chairs the Sierra Club Yolo Group.