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Vote now, sort it out later

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Bureaucratic red tape is threatening to keep fluoridated water off November's ballot in many counties in Utah. If government leaders prohibit voters from deciding this important issue because of jurisdictional questions, that would be a tragedy.

Instead, counties should do all they can to clarify these thorny issues in time for November's elections, but they should not be afraid to move ahead even if they can't find all the answers.

As Lewis Garrett of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department noted, "I'd rather take my chances with a judge than go back to the Legislature." With this issue, that seems a wise course.

The problem has to do with SB158, the bill the 2000 Legislature passed allowing people to vote on fluoridation on a county-by-county basis. In some counties, water districts and voting precincts overlap. One water district, for example, includes parts of both Weber and Davis counties.

To wait until the 2001 Legislature convenes is by no means a guarantee that a solution would be found. This year's sponsor, Sen. Edgar Allen, D-Ogden, believes the possibility exists that a clarified bill would fail. The issue is far too emotional and is clouded by misinformation. And yet, people deserve to have their voices heard on a public health issue that has been kept from them for far too long.

The solution is to vote now and sort out the jurisdictional questions later. As this page has stated previously, the overriding benefit to fluoridating water is that it prevents tooth decay. During the second half of the 20th century, Americans experienced a sharp decline in dental cavities, largely because most municipal water systems began adding fluoride.

Opponents base their views on alarmist rhetoric, not sound science. They talk about fluoride causing cancer and leading to Alzheimer's disease or causing bones to become brittle — all without foundation for their arguments.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta strongly supports fluoridation, noting there is no credible evidence of any harmful effects.

About 70 percent of America's largest cities have fluoridated water and more than 60 percent of the nation's drinking water is fluoridated and has been for more than 50 years without harmful effects. The U.S. Public Health Service considers water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the past century.

Utahns need to be able to vote on whether to bring this to their own water supplies — this year, not later.