Water Fluoridation FAQ

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Q. What is fluoride?
Fluoride is an abundant naturally occurring element found in rocks, soil and fresh and ocean water.

Q. Why fluoridate drinking water?
When fluoride is present in drinking water at optimal levels, it has been shown to dramatically improve oral health by preventing tooth decay. California law requires larger water distributors to fluoridate the water supply, as outside funding becomes available.

Q. What should I do when the fluoridation program starts?
You do not need to make any changes to your drinking water habits. Fluoride will not change the taste, smell, or appearance of your drinking water. If you are in the area of Santa Clara that receives fluoridated water, and you are taking or considering taking prescription fluoride supplements, either tablets or drops, health experts advise you contact your physician/dentist of fluoride in your drinking water.

Q. How much fluoride will be added to my water?
The San Francisco Public Utility Commission (SFPUC) supplements naturally occurring fluoride in your drinking water to meet the levels recommended by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which is 0.7 to 1 part per million of fluoride. The proposed recommended level of concentration by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is 0.7 part per million. The chemical used by SFPUC for water fluoridation is suitable for drinking water use. It complies with the drinking water additives requirements Section 64700, Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations and has been tested and certified as meeting the specifications of American National Standards institute/National Sanitation Foundation Standard 60.

Q. Can you give an example of “parts per million” (ppm)?
One drop of fluoride in one million drops, or 50 liters of water. Because there are 3.78 liters in a gallon, one part per million is also the same as one drop of a substance in about 13.2 gallons of water. It is also the same as one inch in 16 miles; one cent in $10,000; one ounce of salt out of 62,500 pounds.

Q. Why isn’t all the water in Santa Clara fluoridated?
Although the SFPUC has chosen to fluoridate the water purchased by the City, the City does not plan to fluoridate the other sources of water used by the City. The capital and operational costs associated with fluoridating the 28 other sources of water within the City of Santa Clara are cost prohibitive.
California state law requires a water system such as the City of Santa Clara’s to fluoridate the water once outside funding is available. To date, funding has not been available from the state.

Q. Is fluoride safe?
Fluoride in levels administered for drinking water is safe for human and all animals.
Over 50 years of research and experience have shown that fluoride at optimal levels is safe for people and the environment. Leading scientists and health professionals, numerous professional organizations and governments around the world support community water fluoridation.

Q. If I have a water filter, is it removing the fluoride?
To find out if fluoride is removed, check with the filter manufacturer. However, most water filters do not remove fluoride. The most effective way to remove fluoride from a household supply is by reverse osmosis filtering with up to 80 to 90 percent efficiency.
Water distillation systems remove up to 100 percent of fluoride.

Q. What if my child has been receiving fluoride drops or tablets?
Please check with the pediatrician or dentist who prescribed the supplements to determine the proper dose and the need to receive fluoride supplements and associated health benefits.

Q. I use toothpaste and mouthwash that have fluoride in them, and I live in the area that receives fluoridated water from the SFPUC. Is this a problem?
There is no problem continuing to use fluoridated toothpaste and/or mouthwash, as they are not ingested or swallowed.

Q. What do health professionals say about fluoride?
Many health experts endorse water fluoridation as the single, most effective public health measure to improve oral health. Through more than 50 years of extensive research, drinking fluoridated water has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. The following organizations endorse water fluoridation as an important health measure for reducing tooth decay:

The American Dental Association (ADA) endorsed fluoridation in 1950, and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1997.

The American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed fluoridation in 1950, and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1996.

The America Water Works Association (AWWA) endorsed fluoridation in 1976, and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1982.

The San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda county Health Departments have all endorsed the SFPUC water fluoridation program.

The California Department of Public health has approved the SFPUC fluoridation program.

Q. How can I learn more about water fluoridation?
For information on fluoride in your drinking water call the City of Santa Clara Water Utility at 408-615-2000. For health related information, you can call the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at 408-885-3980.
More information is also available on the following websites:

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission 
American Dental Association
Center for Disease Control 
North Coast Fluoride Information Network

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