A group of South Bay residents called Safe Pure Water filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Santa Clara Valley Water District to prevent the agency from treating tap water with fluoride.
The water district voted in 2011 to fluoridate the water supply, and in December, most residents in the South Bay are due to start receiving fluoridated water. Health officials say adding fluoride to public water can improve dental health for people of all ages, especially children who don’t have access to regular dental care.
But critics fear it’s not safe. They argue that fluoride is a chemical that doesn’t belong in drinking water. And while studies have concluded fluoridated water is safe, those same critics believe more long-term studies are needed.
The water district board was set to meet Tuesday evening, and Safe Pure Water has organized a rally outside the district offices to start at 5 p.m., with a goal of being seen by people attending the 7 p.m. meeting.
"There’s enough things in our diet that are toxic," said Keith Howe of Safe Pure Water. "I don’t need to add to it with toxic fluoride and other things in the water. Fluoride is absorbed through the skin, doing dishes as well as when you’re drinking water."
Howe suffers from a kidney disease and because of that, he is fighting to keep out fluoridation. "It’s an extreme toxin poison, and it has no place being put in our water," he said.
Lisa Hernandez, Department of Health officer for Santa Clara County, said fluoride presents no danger and is even beneficial.
"Public health has for a long time supported fluoridation," she said. "It is effective, safe, and it reduces tooth decay and protects the community as whole."
Many dentists agree.
"You just see fewer kids with giant black cavities in their mouth," said John Pisacane, former president of the Santa Clara Dental Society. "It’s a great advantage."
There is one common side effect of fluoridation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can cause dental fluorosis, a discoloration of tooth enamel.
Tuesday's protest also is sponsored by Healthy Alternative to Pesticides, a group of Santa Clara County residents concerned about the use of pesticides in the environment. The rally will include speeches from experts in support of the cause against fluoridation.
San Francisco and Oakland have fluoridation systems in their water. The CDC said about 75 percent of drinking water is fluoridated.