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Published Wednesday, March 3, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

Light turnout on fluoride measure

Mercury News Staff Writer

While most voters leaving Santa Cruz polling places Tuesday proudly sported little stickers announcing ``I voted,'' Andrew Wedel, 35, exited the city Museum of Natural History without having marked a ballot.

Wedel, a microbiologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, was at the Seabright-area polling place with his pal Adam Sherman, who had just voted Yes on Measure N, meaning a vote against fluoridating city water supplies.

``This may not be the most important issue in the world, but it's certainly interesting. Each side is so virulently opposed to the other that the arguments have been really something,'' said Sherman, 26, a graduate student in linguistics. ``There are medical professionals on either side of the fluoridation issue.

Early voter turnout was light Tuesday morning at two Eastside polling places where voters were interviewed. Opinions on the controversial ballot measure to ban water fluoridation in Santa Cruz seemed mixed among voters casting ballots, many of whom admitted it had been a sometimes confusing issue.

Sherman said he read scientific studies on both sides of the fluoride issue before deciding how to vote.

``I'm opposed to adding fluoride to the water supply. If so many are opposed to it, there must be something to it,'' he said. ``I just came to the conclusion that it's not worth taking a risk.''

Fluoride, an acknowledged reducer of cavities and considered by most health experts as safe in quantities introduced to public water supplies, is endorsed by the majority of health officials, and was mandated for state water supplies in 1995. But fluoride opponents have focused on a handful of studies showing a possible link to cancer, Alzheimer's disease and bone fractures.

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