The possibility of fluoridating public water supplies is starting to cause a little stir in the waters in Utah County.
Orem officials are considering putting the issue on the November ballot but only after an extensive study is done on the water system.Some Provo residents might want fluoride in their water, but city officials say it's unlikely to happen any time soon.
Opponents to fluoridating Orem's water supply say introducing what is essentially a drug to the masses is wrong. Three women took time during the City Council session this week to explain their opposition; Gayle Ruzicka, representing the Utah Eagle Forum; Rae Howard, representing Utah Health Forum; and Rosemary Minervini, a dental hygienist.
Ruzicka said the populace is not up to speed on fluoridation because it hasn't been an issue for 20-25 years. She said the legislative hearing where HB405 was introduced "was bogus" and the legislation was railroaded through. She said government bureaucrats have singled out fluoridation for a fast track to approval.
"On every other kind of issue, you have to get 10 percent in 20 counties to get an initiative petition on the ballot. You don't have to do this for fluoride," she said.
HB405, introduced and passed during the 1998 Legislature, calls for an election on the issue of adding fluoride to the public water supply and replaces a 1976 law that previously required a percentage of voters in a number of counties to ask for an initiative.
Under HB405, a majority vote of a city council, a water district or a county commission can place the issue on a ballot.
Minervini said fluoride is a drug, a toxic drug that people can easily get, if they wish, from other sources than water, sources they can regulate. Minervini said the dosage of fluoride in the drinking water will vary according to how much a person drinks and an individual's physical tolerance. Some may get far too much.
Fluoride has been found to only affect the teeth during early childhood, she said. To medicate the general public to benefit a few is overkill.
"Just say no!" she declared.
Howard said if government takes on the role of determining the public needs fluoride by mass medication, it may not stop there. "What else will we add?" she said. "This will be setting a dangerous precedent."
David Lee, a dentist in the audience, said the facts quoted by the trio were taken out of context and misleading. Lee said the public ought to be a lot more concerned about other things in the water supply than about fluoride.
"I see daily the benefits of fluoride," he said. "I also see the children who suffer without responsible dental hygiene. Fluoride is not dangerous. It is a good thing."
Earlier, another resident, Nelson Abbott, appeared to ask the council to include fluoridation on the November ballot.
Jim Reams, city manager, told the council Tuesday the department of public works will need to conduct a study on how that could happen in Orem. Because Orem has a complex water delivery system, it will be necessary to involve officials from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and from Provo City in whatever system changes Orem makes.
Injection of fluoride into the system would have to be made from multiple sources, Reams said.
After the study is complete, it is anticipated the council would include fluoridation through the water supply on the November 1999 municipal election ballot for public vote, he said.
Provo hasn't considered fluoridating its water. Mainly, because the city has multiple water sources and no central treatment facility. Water flowing from wells and springs would have to be treated in at least 10 different areas, said Merril Bingham, water resources director. Provo has not looked at the costs associated with that, although officials believe it would be expensive.
In addition to the physical limitations, Bingham said, he thinks most residents would oppose fluoridation because "they look at it as a communist plot."
"I think it would be a fairly divisive issue," he said.