A recent push to fluoridate the water in that Santa Cruz County agricultural city has prompted a public outcry and a threat by a key employer to leave town. City voters passed an initiative to block fluoridation in 2002, but courts later ruled that the mandate violated a 1995 state law dictating that cities fluoridate their water if there is an outside source of funding available to do so. In Watsonville, that source is a foundation allied with the California Dental Assn., which is willing to put up $1.5 million to help fight a local epidemic of tooth disease. One pediatrician treating the children of migrant farmworkers in Watsonville told The Times that she had "never seen such bad teeth outside Nicaragua."
Watsonvillians, of course, aren't the only people who fear fluoridation. Although studies have largely debunked claims that fluoridated water causes cancer or kidney failure, there are some legitimate questions about whether concentration thresholds could be exceeded in a handful of places where natural fluoride levels in tap water are already high.