Vigilance urged in local fluoride, amalgam debates

A recent decision by the Olivehurst Public Utility District to discontinue fluoridation of its community water supply is a reminder that debates concerning fluoride, as well as amalgam, continue to surface in California, and that dentists need to be aware of any activity in their communities.

In February, the OPUD voted 3-2 to stop fluoridating drinking water in Olivehurst after some board members expressed concerns over its safety.

CDA President Lindsey Robinson, DDS, and other dental and health advocates attended the meeting to speak about the benefits of community water fluoridation and its 60-year proven track record of effectiveness.

“It was a disappointing decision – one that was not based on the scientific data regarding fluoride,” said Robinson. “This issue surfaced quickly and quietly before the public utility district, and it’s a reminder that dentists need to be vigilant in regards to activity in their communities.”

In addition to fluoride, amalgam has also been the subject of debate in some communities. While there have been periodic discussions at the local level related to wastewater discharges of mercury, there have been increasing efforts in recent years by anti-amalgam activists in individual cities to focus attention on the alleged health effects of the amalgam fillings themselves.

Resolutions calling on dentists to phase out the use of amalgam were passed in the cities of Costa Mesa and Malibu, while a similar effort in the city of Long Beach was thwarted only because a local dentist was contacted by a city official he knew personally. 

Most recently, the city of Berkeley has been discussing, at the advisory commission level, a proposed resolution that, among other things, would require dentists to obtain a patient signature on a specific “informed consent” statement warning patients about the alleged dangers of dental amalgam. Since last October, members of the Berkeley Dental Society have attended numerous advisory commission meetings on the proposed resolution, which came to the dental community’s attention only when an advisory commission staff member contacted CDA and the Berkeley Dental Society for comment after the City Council had referred the resolution to his commission. 

While a vigorous response is crucial to defending against these resolutions, the only cities where this group has been successful are those in which action has occurred without dentists knowing the item is being considered and having the opportunity to respond.

“Monitoring city council agendas in your community will help us become aware of activity and prepare a swift and appropriate response,” said Robinson.

Because of this, CDA is urging local dental societies to ask their members to engage with their local elected officials — they can make an impact with something as simple as offering opinions or suggesting they get more information on the subject from the dental society or CDA.

Please report any city or county amalgam/mercury activity to CDA’s Public Policy staff at 800.232.7645, ext. 4984.

For information on the CDA Foundation’s efforts on fluoridation, visit cdafoundation.org/fluoride.