Adam Madison, The Triplicate

A decades-old public policy dispute has landed in the laps of Crescent City voters: Measure A on the Nov. 2 city ballot would prohibit the fluoridation of our water.

We're not alone. Despite widespread water fluoridation, it's an issue that pops up from time to time in American communities big and small. And unlike most items on the Nov. 2 ballot, it's a debate best pondered by looking outside our own community for guidance.

Fluoridation of public water supplies has been going on for a long time - since 1968 in Crescent City. Its effect on tooth decay and other health issues has been researched longer than that, and the studies continue.

That's why, for an article published Saturday, The Daily Triplicate asked a key supporter and a key opponent of Measure A to cite the websites they recommended voters visit before casting their ballots.

Spend some time on those websites, and you'll notice trends. The anti-fluoridation sites favor excerpts and outtakes - look long enough at a lengthy report and you'll find some part of it that, taken alone, will seemingly support your position. Meanwhile, the sites recommended by a local dentist offer full-fledged analyses, including unflinching treatment of the supposed drawbacks of fluoridation.

The inescapable conclusion: Contrary to the claims of Measure A supporters locally and fluoride critics everywhere, scientists and public health officials are not rubber-stamping a long-ago and ill-advised move toward widespread fluoridation. Instead, they continue to analyze its effects, and they continue to determine that the benefits massively outweigh the drawbacks.

Granted, there are learned people out there who oppose fluoridation. But there are so many more learned people out there who support it. As members of a civilized society, we constantly put our trust in the accumulated wisdom of scientists and technology experts. When the vast majority of them reach the same conclusion, we go with it.

That's why the state of California requires fluoridation of all public water systems with 10,000 or more connections. The Crescent City water system has only about 4,200 connections. Does that make us smarter than the masses? Not when it comes to a practice cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Water fluoridation is especially appropriate in an economically challenged area such as Del Norte. When it comes to dental health, it is the great equalizer, ensuring that all children reap the benefit of better teeth.

But don't take our word for it. Check out some of those websites. Just do so with a critical eye toward who is giving you all the facts and who is being highly selective.

The Daily Triplicate urges a "no" vote on City Measure A.