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Fluoride is finally here — almost

Parents can put away the pink tablets.

Starting Oct. 1, drinking water in Salt Lake County will have a new ingredient: fluoride. Now, as the final preparations are being made for the addition of fluoride, health officials are reminding parents, dentists and pharmacists that the fluoride supplements are no longer necessary.

The fluoridated water will be the culmination of years of work to actually get the supplement approved by voters, and another three years of preparation, said Patti Pavey, executive director of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. The importance of it, however, is that now all children in the county will have a better chance at healthy teeth.

"We will be taking a great step forward in public health benefits," Pavey said. Parents who have trouble affording fluoride supplements will no longer have to worry because "publicly fluoridated water doesn't discriminate."

She also hopes that the long-standing dispute about whether or not fluoridated water is safe will finally be laid to rest, despite changes made by the Utah Legislature earlier this year that will allow for revotes on fluoridated water every other year.

"Once the fluoride is in the water, and it does not taste or smell funny — which it won't — the anti-fluoride will probably move on to something else," she said.

Dagmar Vitek, medical officer for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, said that fluoridating water will help the estimated 50 percent of low-income children who do not take supplements without costing taxpayers much money.

"It is the most effective, safest and inexpensive way to control tooth decay," she said.

Florence Reynolds, water quality and treatment administrator for Salt Lake City Public Utilities, which operates Metropolitan Water District, said that the three-year implementation period has been needed to ensure that the treated water is completely safe.

"We have made extra special efforts to make sure that the chemicals and processes we use are safe," she said.


E-mail: jloftin@desnews.com