Fluoridation Will Be on Tooele Ballot Tuesday

Fluoridation Will Be on Tooele Ballot Tuesday

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TOOELE, Utah (AP) -- Tooele resident will vote again Tuesday on whether to fluoridate their drinking water.

A similar proposal six years ago was voted down by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Tooele dentist Dr. Clair Vernon and Tooele County Health Director Myron Bateman asked the City Council last month to place fluoridation on the ballot again.

They said Tooele's changing demographics mean there are a lot of new voters, many of them young families with children who would especially benefit from fluoride.

"I still know it's an important thing, and there's a lot of newer, younger families that have moved into Tooele," Vernon said. "I thought maybe now we can get it to pass. It's beneficial to everyone. It's like putting money in a bank. The sooner you start in your life, the better the end result."

Opponents are many and varied, with their reasons ranging from health and safety concerns to the question of the right to choose.

Annette York, a Tooele mother and grandmother, said she sees the benefits of fluoride but believes it should be left up to parents to decide when and how to give it to their children.

"I gave my kids fluoride, and my kids have good teeth, but the thing that troubles me is that when I was raising my kids my pediatrician had me not start fluoride until they were a little bit older," she said.

"They don't continue giving it to them into their teenage years. The thing that concerns me is that a lot of people's rights to clean water are taken away if we put it in the water system," she said.

Many opponents say fluoride is a health risk. Campaign literature and many Web sites link fluoride to thyroid disease, diseases of the brain and eventual damage to children's teeth, among other things.

Vernon said fluoridation has been practiced for 60 years, since Grand Rapids, Mich., first added fluoride to its drinking water in 1945. Today, 43 of the nation's 50 largest cities have fluoridated drinking water. Voters in Salt Lake and Davis counties have approved water fluoridation in recent years.

Vernon said Tooele's proposal calls for boosting the water's naturally occurring fluoride level of 0.2 parts per million to 1 part per million.

York says that fluoride, good or bad, should not be forced on people who don't want to drink it.

"I feel bad because I realize there are a lot of people who could benefit from it, but it just seems like it's taking away a lot of people's rights to not have it in the water by forcing it down our throats," she said.

She said the most vocal proponents of fluoridation seem to be dentists, so they should consider opening their offices on specific days to provide fluoride for children of poor families who could not afford it otherwise.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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