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City Fluoride Issue Won’t Go to Voters

SANTA FE, N.M. — A proposal to ask Santa Fe residents whether they want supplemental fluoride in their drinking water appears to be off the table.

Instead, some supporters of a plan to put fluoridation before city voters said Tuesday they’d prefer the City Council decide the issue.

The council’s Finance Committee agreed Tuesday to reintroduce an ordinance — considered earlier this summer by the council, approved at one point but withdrawn last month — to totally eliminate supplemental fluoride from Santa Fe’s drinking water.

The committee also endorsed an alternative measure by Councilor Chris Calvert that would match city water fluoride levels to the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for now, and increase dental education and outreach efforts. After three years, under this option, the city would stop adding fluoride.

The City Council will consider both proposed ordinances concurrently.

Four councilors — a near majority of the city council — announced earlier this month they wanted to put the fluoride question on the ballot in the 2014 municipal elections. But Councilor Bill Dimas said Tuesday that plan won’t be moving forward. Dimas and Councilors Carmichael Dominguez, Ron Trujillo and Chris Rivera had supported the idea.

“We just felt like rather than waiting another year and a half before putting it out to the voters, we really need to vote the issue either up or down now,” Dimas said.

Dimas and Councilor Patti Bushee agreed to co-sponsor an ordinance to eliminate supplemental fluoride now. The city’s water supply contains some naturally occurring fluoride, but not at levels the Centers for Disease Control wants to promote dental health.

Calvert said he believes his ordinance, calling for three more years of fluoridation, is “superior” and “more of a win-win.” However, he said he was open to reducing the waiting time before the city stops adding fluoride. “The intent was to give time to get a better education and outreach program and maybe even alternatives to fluoride a chance to come forward,” Calvert said.

Health agencies and many dentists characterize fluoridation as one of the great public health successes of all time. Opponents say it’s not necessary and some argue it causes health problems, a view not supported by mainstream science.

In July, the City Council, at Calvert’s urging, voted to stop adding fluoride. But the ordinance was rescinded after the city attorney advised that there wasn’t proper public notice. The agenda issued before the July vote had listed a proposal to roll back fluoride levels to the latest recommendation of the CDC, not to eliminate it altogether.

Calvert subsequently introduced a new ordinance to stop adding fluoride to the water supply. He pulled that measure in August in favor of his current proposal with the three-year time frame, something of a compromise plan.

For decades, fluoride levels in Santa Fe have been set at a range of 0.80 to 1.20 parts per million, as suggested by the CDC. The CDC is now changing its recommendation to 0.70 parts per million. Naturally occurring fluoride levels in Santa Fe range from 0.2 to 0.5 parts per million.