MWD will begin adding fluoride to Southland water

By Associated Press

California's largest water agency voted Tuesday to add fluoride to the water it supplies to 18 million customers from the Mexican border to the Central Coast.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said it will take more than two years to complete the massive project aimed at protecting Southern Californians' teeth from cavities.
"This is very significant in that public water fluoridation has been touted as one of the great public health achievements of the century," said Timothy Collins, chairman of the California Fluoridation Task Force.
Collins, who also is head of dentistry for Los Angeles County, said fluoridation can reduce dental decay by 20 percent to 40 percent.
Only a handful of Southern California cities, including Beverly Hills and Long Beach, currently put fluoride in their water.
MWD director Ronald Gastelum said the measure will add less than $1 a year to each customer's water bill.
He noted that the American Dental Association estimates that every dollar spent on putting fluoride in water saves about $80 in dental health care costs.The MWD supplies water to 26 cities in six counties. The project is one of the largest water fluoridation plans in the world and is much needed in Southern California, health care officials said.
California has long been behind the nation on the issue of water fluoridation.
In 1995, about 62 percent of the U.S. population was drinking fluoridated water, compared with 17 percent of Californians, Collins said.
Then-Gov. Pete Wilson signed a law mandating fluoridation in most public water supplies, but companies could opt out if they did not have enough money to pay for the service. The MWD was not covered by the law.