Voters reject fluoride
Measure A supporters celebrate; opponents vow fight not over

Scott Mobley
November 06, 2002

Redding soundly rejected water fluoridation Tuesday when 12,177, or 56.3 percent, of the voters approved Measure A.

Fluoride proponents hoping to defeat the measure earned 9,437 votes, or 43.7 percent of the vote.

But it was unclear late Tuesday whether Measure A's passage will bottle up the city's proposed water fluoridation program. A state law ordering fluoridation in cities with 10,000 or more water hookups could trump the ballot initiative — but only if state officials enforce it.

Measure A supporters gathered Tuesday night at Leatherby's Family Creamery, watching the issue gain ground throughout the night. They were ecstatic.

"I think it shows the people still have a voice," said Donna Williamson, a Measure A supporter. "For me personally it came down to choice. I could not believe they were trying to force it (fluoride) on us."

Measure A's victory was especially gratifying because opponents had spent nearly $31,000 to defeat it, Williamson said. Citizens for Safe Drinking Water raised just under $7,000.

About a dozen Measure A opponents sat in a back room of the Shasta Community Health Center watching a TV and checking election returns roll in on a laptop.

"I see this as a minor setback. . . . This issue is far from over," said Dean Germano, executive director of the Shasta Community Health Center and chairman of the Citizens for Healthy Smiles, a coalition of doctors, dentists and educators that raised nearly $31,000 in an effort to defeat Measure A. "I was concerned that the scare tactics would resonate in this community. It's very unfortunate and in my view, very irresponsible."

Shasta County Public Health Director Marta McKenzie said the numbers were deceptive and that this vote was closer than in 1962, the last time the fluoridation issue came up in Redding.

"Public Health is not going to withdraw its support of fluoride. It's a nationally recognized oral health improvement," she said.

Germano and McKenzie spearheaded the Shasta Oral Health Task Force, which lobbied the City Council to embrace water fluoridation. The task force lined up $2.3 million in mostly private grants to pay for the fluoridation and equipment and cover the cost of running it for a year.

The council voted 4-1 in September 2001 to go after the grant money. The pro-fluoridation majority included Mark Cibula and Pat Kight, who were both re-elected Tuesday.

However, the council has yet to accept the grant money. The California Dental Health Foundation, which would contribute $1.6 million to Redding's fluoridation program, had insisted that the city run the equipment for 10 years or return the money. The city has refused.

Dr. David Nelson, the state Department of Human Services fluoridation consultant, coordinates efforts to boost water fluoridation under the 1995 law ordering the treatment in larger cities.

The dental health foundation would strike the 10-year requirement from its Redding offer, Nelson has said.

But the state won't enforce the law where voters overwhelmingly reject fluoridation, Nelson has said. It was too soon to tell Tuesday how state officials would react to Measure A's passage.

Measure A does not ban fluoridation outright. Instead, the measure forbids the city from adding chemicals to the water supply lacking federal Food and Drug Administration approval for their health claims.

The FDA has not approved hydrofluorosilicic acid, the fluoridation chemical Redding would use. Nor can it — the agency does not regulate public drinking water.