I usually don’t post on Tuesdays, but I found an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the fluoridation of the water supply in the 50,000 population-town of Watsonville, California.
The article, entitled Anger Fuels Water-fluoridation Debate in Watsonville, Calif. talks about how the town is experiencing a dental decay epidemic. The town has a large proportion of migrant workers that perhaps cannot afford regular dental care. A study of local students showed an average of two abscesses in each classroom, not to mention a large number of cavities. Obviously, something needs to be done to improve the oral health in this town.
In 2002 there was a vote on water fluoridation. The people voted by a narrow margin of 2% to not fluoridate their water. However, that vote conflicted with a California mandate that had been set forth in 1995 to fluoridate the water of larger towns when there is outside money available for fluoridation. In Watsonville, there is money available ($1.5 million) to fluoridate their water from the California Dental Association.
An Economic Twist
The economy of Watsonville relies on agriculture. Unemployment in the town is estimated to be 25%. One of the town’s larger employers, Martinelli’s Beverages is looking to expand to a variety of juices. They want to do this expansion in Watsonville, however since their expansion will require using the city’s water to reconstitute some juices, they would be forced to sell fluoridated juice. Here’s what the company president, John Martinelli has to say about that:
We believe fluoride is bad for your body so, morally and ethically, we simply cannot put that water in our products… If half the people in this town don’t want to be mass-medicated, then we shouldn’t be.
Fortunately, the city has offered to help purchase water de-fluoridation equipment for the Martinelli company so that it can still expand to Watsonville.
Should Watsonville, CA Be Mass-Medicated?
The last part of John Martinelli’s quote really got me thinking. It made me ponder a few questions:
- If the citizens don’t want their water fluoridated, does the government have a right to fluoridate it?
- If the city council wanted to add Vitamin A to the water supply, should they be allowed?
- If the city is willing to help purchase water de-fluoridation equipment for Martinelli’s, should they offer a rebate on reverse-osmosis water filters for their citizens that oppose water fluoridation?
I can’t offer easy answers to these questions, but they do make me think about the proper role of government in our health.
I believe that fluoride does reduce dental decay and improves oral health. However, I do wonder whether or not the public water supply is the best way to deliver fluoride to the general public.
I don’t think John Martinelli was wrong when he said that he cannot ethically put fluoridated water in his products because he believes fluoride is bad for our bodies. Whether or not John Martinelli’s belief is founded on scientific principles really doesn’t matter. I mean, some people believe on a religious basis that war is immoral. The United States excuses such people from the draft. And some people believe that it is immoral and unethical to fluoridate the public water supply. So is it really fair for the United States to force those people to drink fluoridated water?