SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Hundreds of thousands of residents in San Jose should finally have access to fluoridated drinking water within the next two years after the Santa Clara County board of supervisors took action Tuesday to fund a major project in East San Jose.
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"When it comes to children, being preventative is just critical," says Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County supervisor.
Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Clara County board of supervisors unanimously approved approximately $1.7 million in funding to help fluoridate water in parts of East San Jose, which includes a high concentration of low-income families, many of whom lack access to proper dental care.
The new McLaughlin water well, being built near Story and McLaughlin, is owned by the San Jose Water Company. The facility is expected to be completed by August 2019 and could eventually serve more than 400,000 residents.
"This investment is really critical because it's a new well, it's something that doesn't have to be retrofitted," says Chavez. "We're going to have the best opportunity we can to do this in a very effective and efficient way."
Health officials say more than half of children from low-income families in Santa Clara County enter kindergarten with untreated tooth decay. Furthermore, at least 20 percent of children under the age of 13, have never seen a dentist. Advocates say fluoridation could help address some of the oral health challenges that residents face.
"Public water fluoridation has been studied for more than 50 years, and it's been shown to reduce smooth surface decay, says Dr. John Pisacane, Willow Glen dentist. "It makes the enamel stronger and resists dissolving by the acids in our mouth."
Opponents are skeptical over the safety of the mineral. Some say the practice of adding fluoride to the public tap is essentially mass medication.
Over the years, local attorney Gary Wesley has engaged in litigation over the fluoridation of the public water supply.
"There's lots of things that might generally be good for people, that we could throw into their bloodstream, it wouldn't be good for everybody, and the dose matters," says Wesley.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says fluoridation is safe and can help reduce tooth decay by 25 percent in children and adults. Roughly three-quarters of Americans are served by utilities that provide fluoridated water.
East San Jose residents to get fluoridated well water within 2 years