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Water fluoridation in Portland: Taking the choice out of parents' hands?

We've made a case against water fluoridation here before.

Sam Adams says he doesn't care that voters have said 'no' to water fluoridation three times (in 1956, 1962 and 1980), and he will support a plan to add a $5 million fluoridation plant -- it would take at least five years to build and cost taxpayers about $575,000 a year to run once it was going. Commissioner Nick Fish, one of the two others who have publicly supported the project (Dan Saltzman is the third) told an Oregonian reporter how much poor families need fluoridation.

In a statement released Thursday, while on vacation, Fish said many hard-working families can't pay for fluoride. "With fluoridated water, simply drinking tap water gives all of our children the same opportunity to start life with healthy teeth," Fish said.

It's a bizarre argument, given that fluoride has been freely offered in Portland public schools every morning for decades. I swished the fluoride when I was in kindergarten (and my family was, indeed, poor); my kids swish the fluoride. Sure, preschoolers can't have access to fluoride unless they pay for it, but (umm) there are so many ways we don't support the health of poor families that this just seems a weird thing to plant a $5 million-plus flag in. Also, many health advocates have repeatedly noted that fluoride's benefit is topical, and there have been documented effects of fluoride poisoning -- from ingestion -- for about as long as water has been fluoridated.

According to a meta-analysis of fluoridation studies published in the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, high levels of water fluoridation had a negative impact on the IQs of children. Here's another mark against fluoridation, found on the web site of Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water:

A recently published study from Harvard found that young boys between the ages of five and ten years old who drink fluoridated water at so called “optimal” levels  of one part per million have a 500% greater likelihood of developing osteosarcoma, a rare and often fatal bone cancer, than boys who do not drink fluoridated water.  The study corroborates earlier studies on the fluoride/osteosarcoma link by the National Cancer Institute and the New Jersey Health Department.

I think the most powerful argument against adding fluoride to water, though, is that parents of babies are asked to avoid giving them fluoridated water to drink. The CDC itself, a supporter of fluoridation, says in a very carefully-worded statement that parents should not use exclusively fluoridated water to reconstitute baby formula. Baby and toddler toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride, because it's considered dangerous for babies to ingest.

I've read a book on fluoridation, and came through the experience firmly against it. I don't disagree with the use of topical fluoride; I think it's perfectly acceptable to use fluoride toothpaste. In fact, it's a lot cheaper to purchase flouride toothpaste than the natural fluoride-free alternatives (Sam and Nick, take note, poor parents now have no choice but excessive fluoridation).

I really don't think this move makes sense for any of us. If we as a city have decided that our tax dollars should support the heath of the poorer members of our community, the most efficient way to achieve that would be in health outreach to poor families -- more fresh whole foods and less sugar, more social-emotional supports for young families, more dental treatments for poor families -- than prophylactically medicating the entire city through our water system. I can't believe this is just about dental health, because there are so many better ways to approach it (and, once again! we already HAVE a fluoridation program for children in Portland!)

If the city council does indeed vote for this plan, we'll have the opportunity to overturn it. It will be expensive (money better spent on true community building and food and farms and arts and all sorts of things); it will take a lot of our time and energy; it will be seriously annoying. We already said "no." We have alternatives that work. We could spend $100,000 a year to buy toothpaste and fluoride tablets for every kid in Portland.

It's just not the Portland way, Sam & Co. Let the parents make the choices about their children's health. We can be trusted. Stop making it so clear you don't agree.


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Thanks for your well-written article! :) I will be sharing your link with my friends.

It has been standard practice for years for pro-fluoridation politicians like Adams & Leonard (who will be safely gone by the time the damage is done) to portray those opposed to poisoning the water-supply as gullible, anti-scientific, and crackpots. Try telling that to the 1500+ scientists at the EPA who  have opposed it at the risk of losing their jobs, and testified before Congress on both the dangers and the poor risk/benefit it presents:  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nteu280.org%2FIssues%2FFluoride%2FNTEU280-Fluoride.htm&ei=Yc8vUMbsEtDwiQKin4HoBg&usg=AFQjCNHNFHVjR8bah2XGTjcAKcB_o4KiVA&sig2=OYc0u_mRggKCodNMJ96BHA
For those who prefer video, here is the Senate testimony: http://google.com/videoplay?docid=8903910725020792... 
“Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s really obsolete.”
~ Dr. Arvid Carlsson, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine

I lived in a town without fluoridated water until I was three years old. Then my family moved someplace with fluoridated water. I never had a cavity!

For the first seven years of my son's life, we lived in a town without fluoridated water. We used fluoride supplements, but my son had several cavities. (There were probably other contributing factors.)

Our experience is typical of most of the families in the town. No fluoride in the water (I agree, just for preschoolers), cavities in teeth.

Yes, topical fluoride is beneficial and probably necessary. But fluoridated water is kind of like vaccination. I think the benefits outweigh the (minimal) risks.

I agree with Juli. Both my husband and myself grew up in fluoridated cities and neither one of us had a single childhood cavity. In fact, I had my first filling at the age of 22 after living in Portland for two years. Our daughter had EIGHT cavities at her very first dentist visit and had to have two thousand dollars worth of fillings before the age of five, which of course, we had to pay for out of pocket (or, in our case, finance over the course of a few years). Our daughter is a healthy eater, rarely ate sweets or drank juice, brushed morning and night every day with fluoridated toothpaste, and had two parents without a single childhood cavity between us. Frankly, I'm more concerned about the amount of nitrous that's been pumped into her small growing brain for all of the dental work than I am about the minimal risks that are proven to be associated with fluoridated water. Correlation does not equal causation.

I am pro fluoridation as well. The benefits are well documented. The potential risks... well, everything is dangerous if not used in moderation. You can die from drinking too much water.
Oh, and the IQ argument just isn't believable. Are people in Portland smarter than in other US cities? Yeah right! certainly not if measured by high school graduation rate. Do people in the county have higher IQs than in the cities? Doubtful.

Fluoride helps create the enamel that protects teeth. This process begins in utero for baby teeth and later for adult teeth so by the time your kid starts taking supplements in kindergarten the process is practically done. While brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste will help protect the teeth in your mouth, it does not likely help form teeth below the gum line. My kiddo had cavities at age 5 and we used fluoridated toothpaste on her teeth to protect them and had her swallow it to aid her growing adult teeth that had not come in. But maybe if I was drinking fluoridated water in utero her baby teeth may have faired better?

I am also pro fluoridation, for all the reasons mentioned by other posters.

Did any of the previous commenters even bother to read the links in the above post to scientific, factually-based sources that clearly show that fluoride is toxic? Anyone?

Well, I come from a health care supported position. Also have the luxury of understanding a super healthy diet and how to support dental health etc. But I am fine with things the way they are. Seems our network of Dentists and Doctors get how to advise and help parents. Why monkey with mother nature NOW! This was a GREAT article Sarah and basically changed my mind, 180 degrees! Good job!

Also, I should say, I grew up in a city with flouridated water, Boston. I have not had a cavity in many, many years. My kids are 10 and 6 and have never had a cavity. Due to excellent dental care and wonderful pediatric care that also addresses dental health.

Unfortunately, for Portland people, the fluoridationists are very well organized, they have no science to support their declarations of safety but lots of money and political clout. We think they pay people to make positive posts. I have never seen so many pro-fluoridation posts in the years I've been watching this issue (I am a volunteer).

Rich powerful groups are lobbing the legislators to fluoridate you. They have done it secretly for a year because they know the truth is not on their side; but their money and clout speaks more loudly to City Council Members than their constituents.

People have to come out to all the city council meetings where this is discussed, rally in the streets, call and write and tell them what you think. Tell your neighbors about this. Some people still have no clue what's going on. At least get them to sign petitions against fluoridation even if they won't go to meetings. Even though the pro-fluoridation legislators may not be in the city council next year, you can be sure they have higher aspirations and they would prefer to have big money on their side.

If people come out and reveal them to be the undemocratic, back-door sneaks, kowtowing to special interest groups to the detriment of their constituents, their political careers should be over.

The truth is that fluoridation began with the belief that ingested fluoride made teeth resist tooth decay while they were forming under the gums - so only children would benefit. They also thought fluoride was an essential mineral. None of that is true. As you said, modern science shows that fluoride hardens tooth enamel by topical means. Even the CDC says that. Swallowing fluoride only leads to side effects. Consuming a fluoride-free diet does not cause tooth decay. Rotten diets make rotten teeth and no amount of fluoride can change that.

The Portland city council has been quietly lobbied for a year to add unnecessary fluoride chemicals into your water supply and will do so unless citizens say no. They aren’t interested in hearing from the opposition. We thought you might.

Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific, Respectable & Growing

More than 4,177 professionals (including 341 dentists and 531 MD’s) urge that fluoridation be stopped citing scientific evidence that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and has serious health risks. See statement: http://www.fluoridealert.org/professionals-statement.aspx

In 2006, a National Research Council expert panel published a fluoride report which revealed that fluoride, even at low doses added to water supplies, can be especially harmful to the thyroid gland, kidney patients, babies, seniors and people who drink high amounts of water. They also revealed critical fluoride safety studies have never been done.

After 67 years of water fluoridation, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 60% of 12-15 year-olds are affected with fluoride overdose symptoms – dental fluorosis, white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth. Yet, the CDC says More young kids face cavity crisis in US

Tooth decay crises are occurring in all fluoridated cities, states and countries because Americans can’t afford dental care. New dental professionals are being created. New dental schools opened and others are planned, according to the American Dental Association.

New Hampshire passed first ever state-wide fluoride warning law that 6-month-olds should not be routinely fed infant formula mixed with fluoridated water to avoid dental fluorosis.

Emergency rooms are flooded with people in dental pain, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, because 80% of dentists refuse Medicaid patients, 130 million Americans don’t have dental insurance. Many of those that do can’t afford dentistry’s high out-of-pocket costs. No American is or ever was fluoride-deficient. Too many are dentist-deficient.

The CDC reports that 326 less communities adjusted for fluoride between 2006 and 2010. Communities that stopped fluoridation are here: http://www.FluorideAction.Net/communities.htm

In Nebraska, 53 out of 66 towns voted not to fluoridate in 2008 and 2010, reports the PEW Foundation.

Tennessee, once 99% fluoridated, is now down in the low 90’s, according to the American Dental Association News.

In 2012, the following stopped fluoridation: Myerstown & Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Bolivar, Missouri; Bourbon and Argos, Indiana; Dillon Valley Water District, Colorado and Santa Fe & Albuquerque, NM; Palisade, CO; Bassett, Nebraska.

In Canada: Amherstburg and Tecumseh, Ontario; Wynyard, Saskatchewan; Okotoks, Alberta, Churchill, Manitoba.

The Dutch-owned islands of Curacao and Aruba recently stopped fluoridation.

Many cities are considering stopping fluoridation including New York City which recently held a rally on City Hall Steps spearheaded by NYC Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.

Students in Ireland are spearheading a campaign to stop fluoridation in the only country that mandates fluoridation country-wide.

I did read the articles. And I believe in choice and adding fluoride to our drinking water certainly negates that option. I'm just saying that fluoride most likely provides some safety against tooth decay, which is a common problem among children. Perhaps the money saved could be invested in our schools and boost their super unadulterated IQ?

Even the fluoridationists admit that fluoride has no benefit to babies in utero. Also, a recent Cochran review of fluoride supplements showed that they deliver no benefits but do deliver risks of dental fluorosis.

I'm enlightened. Thank you.

I don't actually know how I feel about the issue because I grew up in a town with fluoridated water and like the poster above never had cavities until living in Portland. And, as a teacher in low income suburban area schools (not PPS) I've seen HORRIBLE cavities / dental health where children are in real ongoing pain. I began asking my students if they brush their teeth and many said no! Their parents probably aren't the ones reading this blog... Also, I've had to administer the fluoride tablets in schools and it's a huge pain and takes time away from academic teaching! But of course I don't want to poison anyone, but my personal experiences make me think fluoride in the water isn't that bad.

well said, sarah! i agree 100% it needs to be a choice. and if we want to support the health of poorer families, that money could be used much more wisely. let's give them nutrient dense foods, for example.

I'm very disappointed in this article because it is using junk science to make inaccurate claims that fluoride has negative health consequences. First off, the article that is linked to about IQ clearly shows that the higher IQ group is about the same level of fluoride as optimal fluoridated water, and the lower IQ group is 15 times the optimal level. Plus, the studies reviewed are all low quality.

Second, any association with bone cancer has been clearly disproven:

We need to trust real sources for scientific information like Pew Charitable Trusts, The Centers for Disease Control or the American Dental Association, who all say fluoridation is safe and very effective at reducing tooth decay.

I'm a Portland Parent, and I fully suppor fluoridation. It is the most effective solution for all kids, and it pays for itself many times over in reduced dental costs.

I'm also not sure how I feel about it personally. I do know that the coalition of folks supporting it here includes a lot of amazing community and social justice organizations that work in lower income and minority communities:


I am very against Portland fluoridating the water. There have been too many recent studies to make me believe it is safe. In addition, my childhood was filled with fluoride, literally. I got it in the water, at school, at the dentist and at home. I did all the "right" things yet I had (have) a mouthful of cavities. It wasn't until I changed my diet that I stopped getting them. My diet as a child was ATROCIOUS (poor family, my parents didn't know any better, etc). I very much believe diet changes could have better results in the fight against cavities than fluoride! My daughter rarely has fluoride and has great teeth, just for the record.

For all your commenters who said they had perfect teeth with fluoridated water, please think about your diet. Did you have a highly processed diet or a healthy, whole foods diet? How about your children? Poor families tend to eat junk food diets because it's cheaper in the short run. Parents are also exhausted from working all day and resort to packaged, processed foods for meals. Do you not think that has something to do with cavities? Fluoride is not the magic cure for cavities, I can tell you that.

Actually not 100% accurate. The CDC states infants need fluoride. It does say formula-fed infants getting exclusively fluoridated water may develop faint marks on their teeth, described as "white spots that are barely noticeable and difficult for anyone to see except a dental health care professional", but it doesn't call for parents not to use such water. It also calls fluoridated water one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century.

Rick Carter, it may not be the science with which you agree, but it's hardly "junk." those studies came from peer-reviewed journals and, well, Harvard. I really don't understand how those who are against fluoridation can be said to have an "agenda"; there is no financial or political benefit to being against the addition of a substance in water. Whether or not the anti-fluoridation group is right, I find it a stretch to believe there is some agenda other than their belief that fluoride is bad for health.

I am most convinced by the statistics I've read that find such little correlation between fluoridated water and increased dental health. I'd like to see some backup for your statement, "It is the most effective solution for all kids, and it pays for itself many times over in reduced dental costs." Not only have I not found any defense for this statement, I believe dental costs are, unlike other health costs, almost solely borne by the individuals that suffer them. Nor is ill dental health catching; it's not a public health crisis. I feel badly for children with cavities just as I feel badly for children with obesity. But if we're not going to mandate that parents feed their children a diet with a certain sugar maximum, how can we then mandate they put chemicals in their children's body? Will we, also, go into the bathrooms of families with poor dental health to monitor the tooth brushing each night? Of course not. So why is this o.k.?

anon2: the CDC states that infants should not be fed exclusively with formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. I find the CDC to be often quite self-congratulatory and to claim victory where victory is rather more of a judgment call. It is, perhaps, a personal bias; I tend to disagree with their advice from time to time. they are after all an agency run by the American government, not known for its progressive views or nimbleness in response to changing scientific sentiment.

No flouride, no vaccines, super-high taxes for businesses, no gifted & talented programs for schoolchildren--is it any wonder that
Portland is a third-rate city, broke, clueless and with no growth prospects ? It's sad how the fringe has taken over such a lovely place and made it into a failing metropolis.

Wow. I'm really shocked this article, posted on urban mamas, is trying to use scare tactics to prevent a safe and effective way to prevent needless pain and suffering. You are misinterpreting the science! If you want to read unbiased and accurate information, go to: http://everyonedeserveshealthyteeth.org/

I'm an 'urban mama' to one little boy and I support water fluoridation. Sorry, but you are WAY off on this one! And by the way, not all schools in Oregon offer fluoride tablets or swish and those that do target school age children. Systemic fluoride works best when the teeth are developing.

Before scaring people, you should look at your research sources and interpret the science correctly.

This is something I used to be against because I bought into some of the fear/uncertainty propaganda that people who are against it were pushing. After learning that fluoride is naturally occurring - it is already present in our streams, rivers and oceans - and that there isn't any body of evidence that links optimal levels of fluoride (community water fluoridation low @ 0.7 ppm is what the Coalition wants following Health and Human Services recommendations - the lowest level that provides dental health protection benefits) to any serious health outcome other than better dental health for children and adults - I changed my mind. I even did a scan of the most recent literature looking specifically for negative health outcomes - and didn't turn up any that didn't have faulty science or used fluoride at an unbelievably high level (like, orders of magnitude higher than what is recommended - no rocket science there).

This will affect up to 900,000 folks who live and work in Portland, Tigard, Tualatin and Gresham. This action is backed by over 74+ community organizations, coalitions, offices and health professionals, as well as all respected national health authorities. Fluoridating water is a safe, effective and cost-preventative action that will save taxpayers from picking up the medicaid costs of emergency dental visits, as well as benefit the health of all communities. As noted by the Oregonian, there is currently a dental crisis here in Oregon, greatly affecting children and youth - especially low income and those without dental care access.

If you'd like information about fluoride - check ou this website: EveryoneDeservesHealthyTeeth.org.

If you want to see some of the press about this here are some links:
August 10th Oregonian Article: "New coalition lobbies to fluoridate Portland's water".
August 12th Oregonian Column: "Want fluoride in portland water? Put some teeth in it".
August 15th Oregonian Editorial: "Fluoridate Portland's Water"
Commercial #1: Dental Health Crisis
Commercial #2: Dr. Wu - call for water fluoridation

If you want to take action on this, please take 5 minutes to contact each city commissioner to voice your support. People against fluoridation have been calling our office regularly - and the majority of them do not live here. Apparently, they call out city commissioners and try to outnumber local supporters. They also really like issuing personal threats.

Below, is a sample phone message or email text:
I’m a Portland resident and I want you to know that good dental health is a top priority for me and my family, and I support water fluoridation. I’m asking the Commissioner to support fluoridating Portland’s water. It’s time to end our dental health crisis with this safe, effective and affordable action. For emails, write that you are a fluoridation supporter in the subject line.
Thank you,
(Your name)

City commissioner contact information:
Mayor, Sam Adams: mayorsam@portlandoregon.gov 503-823-4120
Commissioner Randy Leonard: randy@portlandoregon.gov 503-823-4682
Commissioner Dan Saltzman: dan@portlandoregon.gov 503-823-4151
Commissioner Nick Fish: nick@portlandoregon.gov 503-823 3589
Commissioner Amanda Fritz: amanda@portlandoregon.gov 503-823-3008

I don't think the evidence in the original post is enough. The meta-analysis study you link to is one suggesting a correlation between two factors, and does not - cannot statistically - account for any additional factors. It's unsound as a reference. And to say you've read a book on the subject, when that book turns out to have a title like _The Case Against..._...well, that doesn't seem like an unbiased source to either begin or end with.

It's been an interesting and polite discussion, and I really appreciate reading that!

I agree that this has been a wonderfully polite and respectful discussion thus far. Thanks to all who have chimed in. I would like to say that the title of this post bothers me. It's obvious from the responses here that mine is not the only family in support of fluoridation and to say that it's "not the parents' choice" seems both an inaccurate assumption and dismissive of parents who may not agree with Sarah's stance on this issue.

Grewup in Oregon with fluoride in the water. No cavities. I am for it! Dental care is spendy and anything to avoid dental costs and pain for kids! We use Florida in my home and I would prefer it were in the water. I've read the studies and believe benefits outweigh risks.

Count me in as another supporter.

It's funny, but I'm not seeing the usual commenters here. Who are all these new urbanmamas posting in glowing support of fluoridating Portland's water? Are they Portlanders? Really? I'm not buying it.

At least a majority of these comments are placed here by lobbyists, or those paid by lobbyists to shill the benefits of fluoride, especially with the same 2 appeals: helping the poor children and personal experience (I never had a cavity until I moved to Portland!).

Want to help poor children's teeth? Improve school lunches, reduce the cost of dental exams for low income families, educate parents on the importance of home dental care and good nutrition. Those are the factors that actually make a difference in whether kids get cavities or not.

And as it has been stated over and over (to deaf lobbyist ears), the TOPICAL application of fluoride is an effective use of the mineral. There is no conclusive proof that INGESTED fluoride has any impact (besides the documented negative side effects) on teeth.

Don't we all know by now that fluoride is an industrial waste byproduct, created when mining aluminum? Sounds ludicrous, right? Please please please look it up and do your own research.

Portland has some of the best, most pristine water in the country. Let us not pollute it with industrial waste which likely has NO feasible health benefits. Let us not take away our freedom to choose whether or not we ingest, bath in, cook with fluoride.

Sarah, you asked for evidence about cost savings. Well, here it is:

This study shows that for most systems, $38 is saved in dental costs for every $1 invested in fluoridation:

Also, both New York and Texas demonstrated $24 in savings per child per year. And, in Louisiana, kids in un-fluoridated communities were three times more likely to need to have an surgical operation for dental problems. You can see the references here:

I am a Portland progressive parent, and I believe strongly that we have a duty to take care of kids that are poor or underserved. I volunteered at the Dental Association's Mission of Mercy, and I was horrified at the state of the city's teeth. People waited overnight in the rain to get dental treatment, and anyone who showed up after 4:30 in the morning was turned away from lack of space. Many people had tooth aches for months before they showed up. That's not the kind of city I want to live in that ignores a terrible problem in our poorest communities.

People say that we should pend the money on healthy food, but the costs that we are talking about adds up to about $5 per person in the first year, and then $0.61 per person per year. And, that will prevent a third of all cavities. So, in ten years, we are spending about $12 per person. What kind of superfood could you possibly find for $12 that would prevent a third of cavities over ten year? Fluoridation is by far the most cost-effective solution.

And, Sarah, you're right those are good studies, it is just that they don't mean what you are saying they mean, and they are taken out of context.

I am not a lobbiest, and I am not paid by one to post on this topic. I am an educated, successful mom to three kids living in Portland who has posted many times over on this website. The arguments against fluoride are full of holes. Fluoride has been proven time and time again to aid in the development and maintenance of healthy teeth. Tooth decay can contribute to a host of other problems like infections, heart issues, etc. It's really best to keep our teeth healthy, and to start that at the earliest ages.

Like the other poster said, if fluoridation really affected IQ, we'd have noticed that the people of Portland are more intelligent than the people residing in big cities all over the country. um, that is SO not the case.

People who say to educate people about healthier diets... Sure, healthy diets would be great. My kids eat a lot of fresh whole foods and not as much sugar as most kids and they haven't had any cavities. But have you looked at the price of food lately? People who let their kids nosh on juice and candy without brushing their teeth are likely at the lower end of the spectrum on income and education. Not making a judgement, just stating a reality. Do you really think that telling jobless people to buy $20 worth of ingredients to make a healthy dinner is going to fly when they can spend a dollar on mac n cheese? yeah, probably not.

Some people can't afford dental care, fluoride supplements, or healthy foods. Let's give them a little help by at least adding fluoride to the water.

I have a ton of work to finish today and can't engage any more in this discussion -- but to whomever pointed out the post title didn't reflect the sentiment, honestly, when I posted this I didn't know anyone in favor of fluoridation. My Facebook feed was full of outrage.

I still don't think this is an open-and-shut case in which fluoride is a clear winner for the defense of teeth, but I understand many of you disagree. I think we CAN all agree that adding fluoride to water takes choice out of the parents' hands and puts it in the hands of the government agencies; and I've changed the title to reflect this.

Oh, and to whomever discounted the book I read due to its title; I don't really think it's fair to discount a book because it takes a firm stand. Yes, its authors are making a case against fluoride. I thought it was very persuasive. It wasn't brought out by a publisher known for backing wingnuts, so I found its argument supportable.

And it's not 'urbanMamas' who is coming out against this. It is I, Sarah Gilbert a.k.a. cafemama, the author of the post who is coming out against this. I don't know what the other mamas behind the site think.

Lobbyists? Really?! Because we disagree with you, we must be paid trolls?! I'm sorry, but that's just plain absurd.

Regardless of the authors posting here, I appreciate the various links. I am smart enough to evaluate the sources and the information for myself, and will read them and likely discount some, but learn from the others. I'm on the fence about the whole thing. I lean towards not supporting it, simply because I prefer to have control over what goes in my children's bodies while I still can. Putting it in my water makes that more challenging for me. I also get very frustrated at the fact that schools have to spend time in their day giving it to children, when that is really something that should happen at home. The more we ask schools to pick up where families belong, the less teaching we allow them to do.

I want to choose. It is my right. Who's right is it to keep me from being able to choose! I do not want to drink fluoride. This seems completely unconstitutional. Where is our personal freedom? Why would you destroy the mountain spring water that Portland has for some biased argument about fluoride? If you want fluoride get it. Fluoride toothpaste is cheep. Why not spend all that money on supplying all poor people with Fluoride toothpaste? Really it seems insane to force people to drink chemicals they do not want. Think think think think..... Why would you take away our rights to drink pure water? It is crazy. There should always be a choice. Let us have more freedom not less. Wake up people! Instead of just giving away all our right to chose. There are so many other ways to get fluoride to people that could be more affective and still allow us the ability to choose. Clearly this is not a fair act for anyone involved.

To all those that support fluoridation --what are we to do? We want the ability to have control in the water we drink. Are we to drink fluoridated water just because of your opinion that fluoridation is good for us? Who is so bold and self-righteous to decide what is best for all? This is not right. Anotheranon so what if they are poor? I am poor! Now I have to drink bottled water to keep from drinking fluoride! That is not a good argument. If it is because they eat junk food why not fluoridate junk food it makes more sense. If we want to help poor people have access to fluoride great but let them have access to pure water as well. What are we insane? Let us supply them with the means for free fluoride and educate them on a healthy diet rather than sneaking another controversial chemical into their bodies. It is all about the ability to decide for ourselves.

It seems to me that despite the three previous votes, the minds of Portland voters might have changed since 32 years ago. Portland has lots of new people - really a new voting body, when you think of how the wheel of life has turned since then.

It also seems to me that the insistence that anyone has a "right" to chemical-free water kind of ignores reality. Chlorine and ammonia are already added to city water. A lot of people despise that for taste and other reasons, but you don't have a "right" to water that isn't treated - government long ago decided to add these chemicals to promote health. It is one of the reasons to have a government in the first place. If you don't like the city adding chemicals to the water to promote public health, you have already lost the battle. Your choices probably involve collecting rainwater, living in the country on a well or a stream or making do with whatever a filter will get you. You can agree or disagree with chlorine, but not with the fact that the city has every right to add it.

Regarding the CDC page on fluoride and water, no matter how I read it, I can't see that it says children on formula should not get formula made with fluoridated water. In fact, it specifically says you CAN do that. "You can use fluoridated water for preparing infant formula. However, if your child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water, there may be an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis. To lessen this chance, parents can use low-fluoride bottled water some of the time to mix infant formula; these bottled waters are labeled as de-ionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled." It also says that in the U.S., dental fluorosis usually amounts to faint white marks that it is hard for anyone but a dental professional to see.

Regarding complaints about this not being the usual umamas crowd - I've been reading and posting for many years now. Typical posts don't normally draw so many men complaining about the violation of their water rights. Kind of reminds me of the Sarah Palin post - was that four years ago now?

And it also reminded me of this post, one of the first ones I read on this site, in which I realized that a shocking number of Portland babes have their first teeth rotting right out of their heads. And these weren't somebody else's hypothetical kids - these were regular umama posters. http://www.urbanmamas.com/urbanmamas/2006/05/seeking_advice_.html

First, thank you Sara -- for this blog entry. It was comforting to hear a heartfelt and intelligent response, and to offer a forum for discussion.
That's exactly what seems to be lacking here. I discovered the fluoridation issue last week via the Oregonian, and within several days there was already a majority decision by the council. Whoa!

Whether or not we agree with fluoridation, shouldn't this go through some sort of public process? Since this does involve 100% of the people living in Portland, shouldn't there be a larger discussion and larger buy-in? I 'd like to hear both sides of the debate dispassionately, and I feel like I'm being robbed of even that opportunity. I mean we are monkeying with clean water! That is a big deal. There aren't that many things that we can say are categorically good -- but pristine water pretty much owns that bucket. Shouldn't we as a rule, err on the side of cleaner air and/or purer water?

I hope more authentic and intelligent voices like yours rise to the surface, and that perhaps the city will seek the advice from its citizens, and not so arrogantly make these decisions independent of us. Once again I so appreciate you taking the time to write this blog. Your words have the ring of truth, and that is something we can all connect to,.

There are clearly two issues here. The issue of flouridation, and the issue of public process. While flouridation is undoubtedly controversial, the latter is where I think the bigger problem lies. The way this is all going down just doesn't feel right.

I think that being surprised that not everyone agrees with you or accusations that those whom do not are paid trolls is illustrative of a real problem in Portland.

Z, People are aware of and concerned about an obvious pro-fluoridation astroturfing campaign underway. So, no doubt people are suspicious that there are paid lobbyists on these boards....there most likely are.

This is familiar:

davide, you are correct. This is being stealthily foisted upon us without our consent, without our input and without warning. Well, it's also strange that his political consultant Mark Weiner's PR firm, Winning Mark, who represents Upstream Public Health, who is an organization behind this fluoridation effort. Mark Weiner also advises Randy Leonard, the Water Commissioner.

Please read the recent Harvard study on fluoride and IQ ( Fluoridation lobby has talking points and will adamantly say that study doesn't matter, but they are being dishonest...the author does, indeed, find concern that low levels of fluoridation can negatively impact neurodevelopment.) While you are at it, research the history of fluoridation and it's marketing. It is eye opening.

Personally, I don't think that the government's role should be medicating or supplementing us, especially in our water. Recommendations are one thing...forcing us to ingest medication/supplementation via the water supply, no. The fluoridation proposal essentially forces this on everyone, irregardless of personal choice or sensitivity to fluoride, body weight, amount of water intake or underlying health conditions. The idea of city water (a basic necessity) conduit for en masse supplementation/medication decisions is very troublesome, if not entirely unethical.

Without getting too off topic, I think talking about this as a right to choose doesn't really apply. By choosing to live here, you choose to be governed by individuals voted into office that make laws and take action to preserve public health and safety. You could use the "right to choose" about anything at all. But as a society, we don't condone the "choice" of many things. (i.e.: we don't preserve the choice of people to threaten public safety)

I say - put the fluoridation issue to the voters and let them decide. If you don't like the ultimate decision, make the choice to move somewhere without fluoridation.

And, to the poster above who thought I was saying this is a poor person issue. You misread my post - the point I was trying to make is that the reality of our state is high unemployment, and those folks affected by that reality are going to be hard pressed to afford a whole foods healthy diet, fluoride supplements, dental care, etc. And thus, the government does have an obligation to help. In this case, fluoridation is an effective solution. I said nothing about choice in that post.

I grew up in NY and NJ, both of which have fluoridated water. Me and all of my siblings have a mouth full of cavities--as do our parents. Why? Because, according to our dentist, it in genetic. If you and your partner have bad teeth (which he does), good chances your kids will, too.

I don't know if I'm for or against it. Either way our kids get fluoride someway.
Our 5 year old already has 4 fillings and we have been brushing his teeth 2x a day since he was almost 2, and he also got oral fluoride drops. It sucks, but what can we do? Keep brushing, I guess.

Oh are only mothers supposed to be posting on this sight sameurldifferentanon? Thanks for the funny jab and odd Sarah Palin reference?

Anyway yes there is chemicals put in the water that help protect from other bacterial or other contaminants that get into the water. This is obviously important sometimes to get rid of harmful substances in the water. Clearly fluoridation of the water supply is different and your post is really just side stepping the issue which was brought up in the previous posts about the right to choose. Yes I suppose "rights" is not correct terminology if used in a court of law, however I think the idea of free choice is what is at stake here. Yes we the people do not own the water rights. The city does have the right to put things in the water. We should however have the right as members of the city to choose what seems to benefit everyone the most. This said, it seems that fluoridation in the water would take away an individuals ability to choose not to ingest fluoride. That means that whatever organization or group that is pushing for this has a sense of superiority over the masses. They feel that they ought to decided the fate of everyone! That is what seems unfair.

Obviously many people don't want to have to drink fluoridated water. It is clear by reading any discussion board on the topic that this is the case. It is also clear that voters did not want fluoride added to the water in the past which also supports the idea that many citizens of Portland want to keep their water free from this additive. Yes the voters have changed here in Portland "wheel of life?" whatever that means? When are we going to vote on this issue? It seems that in your post sameurldifferentanon that we do not have a "right" to pure water anyway. Should we not even be having a discussion since government has the right to add whatever it wants to the water supply {"right" to chemical-free water kind of ignores reality}? If it ignores reality then why would we vote on this issue -We have no say?

Sorry but I feel your post sameurldifferentanon is really not supporting anything and what you say has little real value. Your argument comes down to stating two points.
1) That the government puts chlorine and other chemicals in the water regardless of the public's desire for pure clean water. (this I suppose some how supports the notion that Fluoride should be put into the water)
2)You can use fluoride for baby formula but it is possible that it will cause "an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis." It is possible to combat this by buying bottled water. (what?) (why should we be forced to drink fluoride?)

sameurldifferentanon if you want to take away Portland's fluoride free water you should work a bit harder in convincing me and others who want the ability to choose.

I know this is bringing up an topic from up higher in the thread, but it's been bugging me. How is it that anyone thinks Portlanders aren't smart? really? is our IQ lower here? because I am constantly amazed at how crazy-smart the little kids, teenagers and adults-born-and-raised here are. maybe (again) I'm in a rarefied group but I've never been so astounded about intelligence as I have been around the children of Portland. my friends from high school (here in SE PDX) are doing amazing things all over the world, professors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, thought leaders; the kids who run cross country here chat about quantum physics and mechanical engineering and they're ALL geeky-smart.

this is totally anecdotal, of course, but if there is some IQ dive in our town I want to know about it!

The right to choose is important in this issue! It seems that you are ignoring this fact! It does apply! Yes by living in this city Portland must live under all of the criteria that the governing body decides. Of course if Portland government decides to take away my ability to drink tap water without fluoride I will have to either drink it or move to a different city. This is all true! If you think that this changes my desire for the ability to chose water with out fluoride added then you are really missing the point. I can get fluoride and we can supply people poor or not poor with fluoride without contaminating the water supply for all. That is what is meant by the word "right" would you prefer "the ability to choose" rather than "right to choose"?
Also you seem to bring up the issue of not having enough money to eat healthy while denying that it is an issue of poverty. I am confused by this. If they can't eat healthy they will still not eat healthy regardless of fluoride in water. So this will not fix the problem. Fluoride toothpaste is the cheapest toothpaste out there. If the government wants to help support healthy teeth and supply fluoride to everyone then it seems there are other options. That can directly help the issue. How about adding something such as the food program (Oregon trail card) but that supplies funds for toothpaste fluoride supplements and other health supplements.

There are a lot of genetics at play with cavities. I grew up with fluoride in the water and had tons of cavities. No matter what I did I got them. My kids were born here and my 10 year old has never had a cavity, where as my three year old has one already. My three year old is an awesome tooth brusher and does it three times per day (and I help). My 10 year old has autism, hates to brush, it is a huge ordeal in our house and so gets done on average once per day. Go figure. And he has perfect teeth with no fluoride in the water and minimum tooth brushing. A lot really just has to do with the teeth you're born with.

I grew up with fluoride tablets and still had tons of cavities. I also got dental fluorosis from being over medicated with fluoride. Also, fluoride does occur naturally in low levels, but the type of fluoride that they add to drinking water is actually a byproduct of aluminum production. Toxic waste. Let's ask our city politicians where the fluoride is coming from. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that they aren't going to share that information willingly.

to compare chlorination and fluoridation of the public water supply isn't legitimate. no one's talking about fluoridating water to make it safe to drink. it's a supplement that some say will prevent tooth decay. chlorine is a chemical treatment to rid water or microbes that can cause grave illness and sometimes death. big difference.

i consent to have my children take fluoride through the public school program, but i absolutely reject fluoridation of our water supply. not everyone wants it. there is reasonable controversy about the safety and effectiveness of fluoride treatment. i'm alarmed at the organized effort to fluoridate without public review. are portlanders' IQs lower than the rest of the country? even if they are, they surely aren't so low that a few elected officials should make this kind of sweeping move without public process. they should be ashamed.

Hi...i'm going to also throw in anecdotals, which are not scientific, but... I come from out of state (a mostly fluoridated state) and indeed, I do find kids here to be extremely smart, goodnatured and sweet and creative. They are VERY different from what I've seen elsewhere (and I noticed this before becoming a parent, by the way.) I assumed it's a cultural phenomena -- but who knows? I'd like to see studies thoroughly investigating the behavioral and emotional effects/impacts of fluoride to explore if it has any effect, especially before taking the drastic measure of medicating the whole city with it.

Thank you, JenUp, for presenting an argument I hadn't thought of, and that really solidified my stance on this. As you said, the government's role is not to supplement or medicate the public. The government has a right and a responsibility to ensure that our drinking water is safe, yes. But I don't see how, nor do I hear anyone saying that cavities are a public safety issue.

Now, not to stir the pot too much, but one could argue that a vaccinated public is a public safety issue. But you don't see Portland trying to mandate vaccines for all citizens, even for real current epidemics like whooping cough. No, in this case, they try to have low-cost clinics and education campaigns.

(Though it makes one wonder, if the City could add a whooping cough vaccine to our water, would we be having a different conversation?)

So, fluoridating our drinking water seems like a very wrong solution to a real and pressing problem.

One could boycott fluoridated water. Go get there own free pristine water from the abundant NW springs. After all, each person is buying water from the tap and still has the right to choose.

Us poor folk don't have money to have a car to get out to the springs. That comment is as rude as the Republicans who say "If you don't like the politics here, leave the country."

t, are you suggesting that we bucket in water to nourish our gardens? to bath in? bucket in pristine water to flush our toilets? we can't just opt out of buying water from the city, if only it were that easy.

I wasn't able to read all the comments here, but just taking a sample, and reading the article, and having experienced a change in diet over the past couple of years, I can tell you why tooth decay is rampant. It's the same as the rise in obesity, diabetes, etc, etc, etc. Crap food makes you unhealthy. We Americans eat too much sugar, too much processed food, too little healthy food. Try giving up sugar and grains for a while and see how clean your teeth are. You'll be amazed. Weston Price gave us the evidence nearly 100 years ago, and we're still here wondering why we're all sick and our kids have 6 cavities before they reach 2nd grade. Wake up! Eat real, whole foods and these problems will go away, without adding chemicals to our water. Humans have lived for thousands of years without it. Most of the world lives without fluoride in the water. I don't remember seeing mouths full of cavities in Europe, do you?

And the post about poor people not being able to afford whole healthy food? Pah-lease! Stop buying mega-cases of pringles at costco and you can get some pretty great stuff. I have been low (and I mean low!) income for 3 years, but I make healthy food a priority. I don't have the best cell phone, I don't have a car, I don't buy new clothes, my kid doesn't have a Wii or whatever those things are, but I even am able to afford to feed my dog raw meat rather than subject her to crap dog food. It is definitely possible, but it has to be a priority. And I don't even qualify for food stamps!

I'm a Portland Native and believe it or not, I am 100% pro fluoridation and vaccination.

Hi pro-Adams. Would you care to share your reasoning?

It's elitist to oppose fluoridation--chronic tooth decay is a truly serious health problem for working class Oregonians and it's been demonstrated that there is a serious ongoing impact on employment prospects especially for women if they have visible dental problems. I think the article posted is really problematic in terms of its lack of engagement with the implications of its position on the realities of public health and social justice.

I've been called an elitist on this site for biking when I have a car, for buying a house in a neighborhood I can afford, for buying organic foods, for eating healthy foods, and for shopping at thrift stores, so you can bet that you calling me an elitist for not wanting an industrial waste byproduct in my community's drinking water is pretty much meaningless at this point.

Uh oh, Anne! Who should I blame then when I can't get a job because during my interview my potential employeer lays eyes on the spots and gray lines on my front teeth caused by fluorosis from consuming too much fluoride from water in California which obviously leads to him denying me a job?
Maybe your time would be better spent campaigning against elitist bosses?

Holly, I also have fluorosis streaks and one pit in the front of my teeth. I wonder if my body is sensitive to fluoride, and I wonder how many other people are sensitive to it and how it will affect our bodies when we are bathing in it, drinking it, watering our garden and eating it. I also wonder about the working class mothers and other target audience for fluoridation if they will know that they can't mix their tap water with formula. And what about people that have thyroid issues, or arthritis, or all of the other medically fragile conditions that are prominent with the very people they are trying to "save" by adding fluoride.

Holly - not getting a job because of gray lines on your teeth? Unless you are a model, I just don't believe it. I can get a job despite having a foreign accent, being a woman with children (and being open about work-life balance expectations) and having moles on my face... the list is longer.

One of the posters is concerned about those medically fragile. It is interesting to bring it up on this thread. Most anti-fluorization folks are also anti-vaccination and they do not care about the impact of anti-vaccination movement on the medically fragile.
Yes, it is elitist to be anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride and, among other things, to red shirt your children uless recommended by the pediatrician. All those things are common in Portland.

I posted about medically fragile people...and I vaccinate. Are my questions not valid?

Hi anon who responded to me. Yup I agree that it's doubtful I would be denied a job because of my teeth. Please read Anne's comment above mine to see some context.

Anne is worried that lack of fluoride will prevent women in Portland from getting jobs. I am simply stating that fluoride caused me cosmetic damage to my teeth, which by HER logic would prevent me from landing that same job.

And for the record, I stand by my claim that half these pro-fluoride posts are written by astroturfing, paid by lobbyist, manipulative, and not all too convincing imposters.

Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront, urban mamas.

Like Michele and others, I grew up in a state with fluoridated water (NJ). My mother was what was called a "health-food nut" back then. We didn't eat junk food or processed food. By the time I left NJ at 18 I had a mouthful of cavities. So did my siblings.

My 2 kids have lived in Portland their entire lives. We eat the same kind of food I grew up on. My 12yo has never had a cavity. My 9yo had 3 cavities by the age of 3 and more since then. I realize that this is anecdata. But every dentist I've seen, while recommending fluoride supplements (which we never took), has told me straight up that genetics is mainly responsible.

Fluoride is provided for free by the Portland Public Schools. So I just can't get too worked up about fluoridating our water, when it's available to any kid whose parents want them to have it and in toothpaste and/or supplements for everyone else.

i don't understand suggesting a connection between fluoride, vaccines and re-shirting kids. generalizing choices or positions, then calling them elitist doesn't further the discussion about the topic: whether or not to fluoridate portland's water supply.

as i mentioned in an earlier post, i choose to let my kids have free fluoride at school and i'm solidly opposed to fluoridating the water. i vaccinate, but i support others' choices not to. it's not fair or productive in this forum to assume we know anything about a poster other than what that poster chooses to share. i'm interested in others' arguments, which is why i'm here. you?

Just wanted to chime in on the discussion. I love Sarah dearly and are very supportive of each other's views, even when we agree to disagree. On the topic of fluoride, I fully support it! Not all of the urbanMamas agree with this viewpoint. As with much of parenting these days, we look out for the self interest of our own families and I can respect that. To a degree, I do understand the argument against fluoridation. But weighing the risks, I do support doing something that will help those that are greatly impacted by the lack of access to health care - dental included. I'm just surprised that many of us who grew up drinking fluoridated water feel so strongly against it. I'm interested in how drinking fluoridated water as a child has greatly negatively impacted your everyday life? Do you avoid it when you travel to other cities outside of Portland, or do you resort to drinking bottled water?

As a dentist, I would note that flouride is most important in the 0-5 year period, before free flouride pills are provided. And yes,cavities have a genetic component, but fluoridated water can help prevent cavities in everyone. Why would you want to doom poor children to poor dental health, based on sketchy "science" and unsupported anecdotes ? And before you go crazy calling me a part of the paid flouride-dental conspiracy, I would note that technically it's in my financial self interest not to have fluoridation, so I can fill more cavities. Portlanders, get a clue and support fluoridation!

Lke Zinemama, I grew up in NJ also, and didn't have a cavity until I was 25. My kids, like hers, have varied. And like she said, also, anecdotes don't go far. It's the research that's the thing - and even citizens can't agree on that.

But even if heredity is responsible for proclivity, that doesn't mean prevention is unnecessary across the board. It doesn't mean those of us prone to cavities are doomed. Maybe those of us who had flouride as kids would have double the cavities we do today, if we hadn't had it. There's no way to tell.

Some of us are more prone to cancer, heart diesease, hypertension...but strong diets etc. can limit the events actually happening.

I hear lots of claims about safe or unsafe, lots of endorsements for the policy of fluoridation. What I would like to see is a written statement from a manufacturer that the consumer product they will sell to the city to add to the drinking water, will actually will, 1) reduce cavities and 2) is safe to consume every day, regardless of my age, health status for my entire life.

Are the dime a dozen for unaccountable endorsements all that we are going get. Dorothy Hamill endorsed Vioxx, but Merck was held accountable. When is the burden of proof of safety and efficacy going to be placed where it rightfully belongs, on the manufacturer of "the product".

Is that too much to ask?

I dare anyone to call this junk science:

Dr. Kathleen Thiessen was one of the 12 scientists appointed by the National Research Council to prepare the 2006 report on the EPA’s standards for fluoride in water. She specializes in human health and ecological risk estimation, and spent years looking over all available fluoride research for the NRC report. She understands this issue better than any layperson or dentist ever could, and is one of the foremost experts on this topic in the nation. Here is her resume:

In 2007, Dr. Thiessen gave a power point presentation to the Metropolitan Water District of LA on the dangers of artificially fluoridated water. She looked specifically at the potential for and health consequences of overdose, defined as exceeding the EPA’s reference dose of 0.06 mg/kg/day, at the proposed level of fluoridation of 0.8 ppm, which is only 0.1 ppm above the “optimal” dose promoted by local supporters.

She found numerous potential consequences for all ages, but especially for infants.

Here is the her live power point presentation:

And here is the transcript of her presentation:

Has anyone considered fluoride's effects on lead plumbing?

Tamara Rubin, executive director of Lead Safe America, wrote this letter to Sam Adams:

Hi Sam,

We've met. My husband is the bike trailer builder. I'm the internationally recognized lead poisoning prevention advocate and reigning National Healthy Homes Hero (an award given to me last summer by the EPA, CDC, USDA, USDoE and HUD.) We have lived in Portland for ten years and we have four children.

Please listen to what I have to say.

Fluoride in the water system leads to increased lead leeching from fixtures and pipes and increased lead absorption by children. It increases the risk of brain damage due to lead that children (like mine) are more likely to get in a city like Portland where such a large percentage of the housing stock is older. Please come to my office to discuss and I will share the studies with you.

As you already likely know - lead has been found in unsafe levels in the pipes in Portland Public Schools (specifically those leading to the water fountains) as well as a large percentage of homes in Portland. I have already butted heads with school officials for not changing the water filters under the fountains with sufficient frequency and then subsequently not allowing my son to keep a water bottle of fresh filtered lead-free water at his desk (with one teacher INSISTING he use the water fountains!)

If the City of Portland contaminates the water supply with fluoride and increases children's exposure to lead—I would anticipate that some parents might feel compelled to sue the City for increasing lead- exposure-related health impairments their children suffer (autism spectrum symptoms, A.D.D., A.D.H.D. & more.)

A quote from one study:
"This toxicological study, which describes the more than doubling of lead levels in blood and other tissues when hydrofluosilicic acid is present with other lead sources, is additionally significant for its confirmation of the findings of epidemiological studies involving a combined 400,000 children published by Masters and Coplan (1999, 2000). "

For more information about lead poisoning including clips from my recent interview with Noam Chomsky, please go to my film's website below. Thank you.

Tamara Rubin
Executive Director
Lead Safe America Foundation

And here's something I don't understand. Assuming our goal is helping children in need as soon as possible, why would pro-fluoride lobbying groups meet secretly with the City Council to push a program that they knew would be divisive, contentious, and take 3-5 years to implement? A program sure to face a recall, and so dismaying to the population of Portland that they’ve voted it down three times?

Why not take that $5 million in water fluoridation start-up costs, plus all the money the pro groups are spending on TV and internet ads, and fund an existing program that could be expanded immediately, is “highly effective, safe, and low-cost,” a program that most all of Portland would happily support, and would never face a recall vote? A program that would help all Oregon children, not just Portland's?

Oregon’s dental sealant program is all of these things. In 2007 it was able to greatly expand with only $300k in funding from the state legislature. It was unable to expand in FY 2010-11 due to budgetary constraints.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, in schools that have participated for four years, the average percentage of children with immediate needs steadily declined from 37% in the school year 2006-07 to 15% in 2009-10.

In addition, according to the 2007 Smile Survey, compared to the rest of Oregon:
“Children in the Portland metro area have less untreated tooth decay, are less likely to have ever had a cavity and are less likely to need urgent dental treatment. In the Portland metro area, more than half of third-graders--51%--have sealants. Slightly less than a third of third-graders who live outside of the metro area have sealants."

Nicely illustrated with a graph on pg 12:

Please take a minute to review these two incredibly similar state surveys of children's oral health, the 2007 Oregon Smile Survey, and the Illinois Healthy Smile Survey, 2008-09.

In 95% (CDC 2008) fluoridated Illinois:

53.2% of 3rd-graders had experienced dental cavities
29.1% of 3rd-graders had untreated cavities
5.4% of 3rd-graders required urgent treatment


In the Portland metro area:

54% of 3rd-graders have had a cavity
21% of 3rd-graders have untreated decay
1% of 3rd-graders need urgent treatment due to pain/infection

There's an easy-to-read graph on pg 12.

If you just want to compare city to city, the numbers look even worse:

63.5% of Chicago 3rd-graders have had a cavity
35.6% of Chicago 3rd-graders have untreated cavities
6.4% of Chicago 3rd-graders required urgent treatment

Since Illinois was already 95% fluoridated at the time of the report, the Illinois Dept of Public Health recommended addressing the problem by expanding the sealant program, opening more safety net dental clinics, and increased cavity intervention in those younger than 8 years old.


You are not comparing apples to apples demographically. Fluoride could well be keeping Chicago from having even worse dental health than it has.

Regarding lead: The CDC has a little fact sheet on this issue. It says "The concern that using fluorosilicate additives to fluoridate drinking water causes water system pipes to corrode is not supported by science." Read more here. http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/fact_sheets/engineering/corrosion.htm

And regarding the IQ and osteosarcoma issues, Willamette Week did a nice job summing up the evidence in its bullet points: http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-19580-the_tooth_of_the_mat.html
In essence, one wobbly doctoral student's study does not add up to a scientific conclusion on osteosarcoma. And a metanalysis with insufficient data, covering fluoride levels three to 10 times the levels allowed here, can't tell us much.

The CDC fact sheet on corrosion of lead pipes does not reflect the findings of the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council's 2006 review of the EPA's standards for fluoride in water.

It also does not address the newest science on the specific interaction between chloramine-disinfected drinking water (like Portland's) and fluorosilicic acid, which is the chemical our water bureau has indicated it prefers to use.

From the NRC report, page 43:

"Most fluoride in drinking water is added in the form of fluosilicic acid (fluorosilicic acid, H2SiF6) or the sodium salt (sodium fluosilicate, Na2SiF6), collectively referred to as fluorosilicates (CDC 1993). Of approximately 10,000 fluoridated water systems included in the CDC’s 1992 fluoridation census, 75% of them (accounting for 90% of the people served) used fluorosilicates. This widespread use of silicofluorides has raised concerns on at least two levels. First, some authors have reported an association between the use of silicofluorides in community water and elevated blood concentrations of lead in children (Masters and Coplan 1999; Masters et al. 2000); this association is attributed to increased uptake of lead (from whatever source) due to incompletely dissociated silicofluorides remaining in the drinking water (Masters and Coplan 1999; Masters et al. 2000) or to increased leaching of lead into drinking water in systems that use chloramines (instead of chlorine as a disinfectant) and silicofluorides (Allegood 2005; Clabby 2005; Maas et al. 2005).12,13 Macek et al. (2006) have also compared blood lead concentrations in children by method of water fluoridation; they stated that their analysis did not support an association between blood lead concentrations and silicofluorides, but also could not refute it, especially for children living in older housing. Second, essentially no studies have compared the toxicity of silicofluorides with that of sodium fluoride, based on the assumption that the silicofluorides will have dissociated to free fluoride before consumption"

Sorry, forgot to link to the full NRC report, which is the most comprehensive look at the entire body of fluoride research that we have at this point.


Another possible fluoride/lead connection not addressed by the CDC fact sheet is the effects of fluoride on calcium metabolism. Also from the NRC report, pg 43:

"Another possible explanation for increased blood lead concentrations which has not been examined is the effect of fluoride intake on calcium metabolism; a review by Goyer (1995) indicates that higher blood and tissue concentrations of lead occur when the diet is low in calcium. Increased fluoride exposure appears to increase the dietary requirement for calcium (see Chapter 8); in addition, the substitution of tap-water based beverages (e.g., soft drinks or reconstituted juices) for dairy products would result in both increased fluoride intake and decreased calcium intake."

It's likely the authors of the fact sheet did reflect on those findings, since they wrote it three years after the NRC report. The newest science in the NRC report that you're referring to (2006) says it can neither support nor refute any lead actually making its way into somebody's body based on method of fluoridation.

I looked at Illinois for comparison because it is almost 100% fluoridated, and has results from a survey from the same government initiative during a similar time period.

So, let's look at fluoridated Seattle. Washington has a smile survey from 2010, but as far as I can tell it doesn't break the numbers out according to region. I used the smile survey from 2005, both so that it would be closer in time to Portland's 2007 numbers, and so that we could compare city to city.

Thinking demographically, Seattle has an advantage over Portland because its household median income (2009) is $60,843, and Portland's (2009) is $50,203. Income is strongly associated with dental health, and according to Oregon's 2007 smile survey:

"The lowest income children, compared with the highest income, are more than twice as likely to have untreated decay, almost three times as likely to have rampant decay, and see the dentist annually 30 percent less of the time."

Also, Seattle's survey may have an advantage over Portland's in that its survey combines 2nd and 3rd graders, so it includes younger children that have had less time to develop decay.

In the Portland metro area (Oregon Smile Survey 2007 pg 12):

54% of 3rd-graders have had a cavity
21% of 3rd-graders have untreated decay
1% of 3rd-graders need urgent treatment due to pain/infection


In fluoridated Seattle (2005 Smile Survey pg 4)

45.9% of 2nd and 3rd graders with caries experience
18.6% of 2nd and 3rd graders with untreated decay
2.1% of 2nd and 3rd graders needing urgent treatment


Taking into account the income disparity between the two cities, and the younger aggregate age of the Seattle children surveyed, there is very little if any evidence there for fluoride's efficacy.

If you carefully read the text of the 2006 NRC report, you'll see that the Macek study (which could not prove or refute lead leaching) only compared lead levels with different methods of fluoridation, not specifically the interaction of fluorosilicic acid with chloramine-disinfected water systems like Portland's:

"Macek et al. (2006) have also compared blood lead concentrations in children by method of water fluoridation; they stated that their analysis did not support an association between blood lead concentrations and silicofluorides, but also could not refute it, especially for children living in older housing."

In three other separate studies quoted by the NRC report, the interaction of chloramine and fluorosilicic acid in lead plumbing was specifically studied, and found:

"increased leaching of lead into drinking water in systems that use chloramines (instead of chlorine as a disinfectant) and silicofluorides (Allegood 2005; Clabby 2005; Maas et al. 2005)"

Also from the NRC report, pg 43:

"In common practice, chloramines are produced with an excess of ammonia, which appears to react with silicofluorides to produce an ammonium-fluorosilicate intermediate which facilitates lead dissolution from plumbing components (Maas et al. 2005)."

Full NRC report:

As you probably realize - and has been stated in this thread numerous times - income is not the only demographic factor correlated with dental health. As zinemama put it, a lot of the susceptibility to cavities comes from one's genes. Needless to say, the genetic makeup of both Chicago and Seattle are different from that of Portland. You are not making an apples to apples comparison.

Thank you for what sounds like the rational side of the argument. Was bummed to see our alt papers taking the pro-fluoride angle. It just seems that something controversial shouldn't be forced on every resident. Even if it were as innocent as vitamin C, would anyone support of the idea of a $5 million plant to put vitamin C in the water?

Sameurldifferentanon, as far as I'm aware we don't yet have a test that measures one's genetic susceptibility to dental decay. That would make it difficult to test the differing genetic makeups of Portland and Seattle and add that information into the comparison.

If you're talking about racial disparities, the only racial breakdown that the 2007 Oregon Smile Survey does is between Hispanic and white non-Hispanic. On page 15 of the survey:

"Hispanic school children have a disproportionately higher rate of oral disease than White, non- Hispanic school children."

The Hispanic population of Portland is 9.4% according to the 2010 Census.

The Hispanic population of Seattle is 6.6% according to the 2010 Census.

So if Hispanic school children have higher rates of oral disease that Non-Hispanic whites, then Portland's higher Hispanic population would tend to skew Portland's numbers higher than Seattle's.

Portland: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41/4159000.html
Seattle: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/5363000.html

The best way to compare apples to apples is to compare what happens in to the dental health of the kids in ONE city before and after a fluoridation campaign. But I think you don't like those results.

I'm open to any and all new information and would love to check those studies out. Please show any studies comparing dental health in one city before and after fluoridation. According to your criteria, any study that compares one city to a control group, or compares one city to another will not be valid.

In order to be as thorough as possible in comparing apples to apples, we'll need to be aware of any oral health factors not related to fluoridation that may have changed in that city over the time period studied.

For example, we'll need to see if the inflation-adjusted median household income in the city changed, or the percentages of racial make-up.

It would also be helpful to see if rates of dental insurance or children in poverty changed. Or if any additional dental health measures were implemented during the time period, like free fluoride tablets in schools or a dental sealant program.

Oh, but then you also mentioned the issue of genetics. If a study looks at a specific age range of kids in a city pre-fluoridation, then kids in that same age range post-fluoridation, you've got two groups of kids with different genetics. Not sure how to resolve that issue into an apples to apples comparison, but I'm open to any ideas.

Why are there so many people chiming in with anecdotes about where they grew up and whether the water was fluoridated and now their kid does/doesn't have cavities? One person's experience does not equal a scientific study. One person's experience is pretty much worthless in this debate. Water fluoridation in Portland is a waste of money. The people affected by this should be allowed to vote. It is ridiculous that the Portland city council should be allowed to decide this for the entire water district.

Kristen, thank you for all your information! I hope you are in a position to present your research and knowledge to the Council and the Oregonian in some fashion.

Additional factors to consider in comparing children's oral health in Seattle and Portland:
Portland's numbers could be advantaged because the 2007 Oregon Smile survey defines the Portland metro area as including Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, which would include fluoridated Beaverton and Tualatin.

The survey doesn't quantify how many if any respondents came from those two fluoridated towns, so it's not possible to exclude those respondents. Perhaps the best we can do is to look at the two town populations in relation to the total population of the metro area. Combined population of Beaverton and Tualatin (2010 Census) was 115,860. Combined population of Portland metro area (2010 Census) 1,641,036. If Beaverton and Tualatin were proportionally represented in the Smile Survey, then those fluoridated respondents would comprise roughly 7% of survey respondents.
Seattle has an advantage over Portland because it has a significantly lower percentage of children in poverty.

Portland Metro area included in the Smile Survey, child poverty rate is 17.56% (2010 http://portlandpulse.org/child_poverty)

Seattle's percentage of children in poverty is 7.5% (2009 http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Seattle-Washington.html#b)

Again according to the 2007 Oregon Smile Survey pg 14:

"The lowest income children, compared with the highest income, are more than twice as likely to have untreated decay, almost three times as likely to have rampant decay, and see the dentist annually 30 percent less of the time."


shocked at the number of misinformed parents out there that support fluoridation.
please read more about what Fluoride really is!
educate yourselves!

PEOPLE LISTEN!! There are two kinds of Flouride,the medical grade and the kind that is a industrial waste by-product literally scraped from the smokestacks of fertilizer and heavy metal factories.
Guess which kind they put in municipal water supplies...
Medical grade? no, too expensive...

They actually use the stuff they remove from the factories, and would put that in our drinking water!!!

Its no doubt that Flouride can help teeth, but what does it do to the rest of your systems?

If radiator fluid was good for your teeth, would you put that in your water? No, because it would poison the rest of your body.

why not address the fact that low income kids eat sugary garbage that rots their teeth? Why try to mask a poisinous diet with a toxic chemical?

I'm for fluoridation. Dad was a dentist. Not being paid to state my opinion.

Just remember every glass of water, every pot of soup or pasta, every shower, bath, swimming pool, garden hose or sprinkler, ANYTHING with water in it will contain a full dose (.7mg ) in EVERY Liter...
How many glasses of water do you drink daily, or do your kids? If you get a full daily dose in one glass of water, what happens when you drink 6 glasses of water, eat soup for dinner with strawberries you watered with your fluoridated hose water...how much are you and your children getting now? Are you still brushing with fluoride toothpaste? Are your kids still receiving fluoride treatments at the dentist or daily pills at school? Do they drink juice boxes from California where they add their fluoridated municipal water to the concentrate? Did you know that new recommendations have caused many states/communities who fluoridate to send out notices to people with infants that they should not mix formula with fluoridated tap water because of how many ounces an infant drinks a day? What about breast milk when you are drinking extra water to keep hydrated and milk supply steady? How much is your newborn or even unborn child receiving?
What about when we wash our dishes, use the toilet, empty the bath, water the garden etc. and that water, all that water, goes back into the river...how do the salmon and other species now process this water that now every drop is fluoridated?
Fluorosis of the teeth is an indicator that all the bones on the inside of the body that you can't see also have fluorosis. A very little known fact...

Is it possible we are dealing with a substance that is in fact helpful with cavities AND also harmful to the body? It could be that way..so do we have great teeth and poisoned bodies and ecosystems? Do we figure out a better way to help our teeth? Have you ever seen a child eating a PPS breakfast of Golden Grahams cereal and chocolate milk? How much sugar is in there that sits on the teeth all day? maybe we could change our kids sugar and cavity producing food intake rather than adding it to the water where it cannot be easily removed?

The fluoride in toothpaste and tablets is medical grade, the fluoride added to water is the byproduct of the scrubbers of smokestacks from phosphate fertilizer plants. (because medical grade is too costly in the amounts needed for water supplies) fact. In our water? Every drop of water? Is this what we really want? Please don't get sucked into the heartwrenching ads with kids who can't sleep because their water isn't fluoridated- that is pure manipulation and fear based tactics- disgusting-
instead..research for yourself- read the studies- read the research- find out why other communities have voted NO or have reversed their policies- read why Portland hasn't fluoridated in the past- Educate- YOUR WATER SUPPLY IS YOUR LIFE..MAKE SURE YOU ARE SURE ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT IN IT.

mamas, watch these:

Dr vyvyan Howard warns against Fluoridation of water, stating DEVELOPMENTAL HARM!!!!

Dr. exposes Fluoride as poison:

Dr Paul Connett is not only beyond knowledgeable but presents the research on Fluoride effects in a entertaining and humorous manor

and for your reading Pleasure from Dr. Robert Carton

I've been an urban mama in Portland and a member of this community for over eight years, since my oldest was born right here at St Vincent. During that time I was also honored to be a contributor at the Activistas site initiated right here. I advocate for the removal of artificial ingredients and additives in our foods passionately but I do so because I care for your children, my neighbor's and those across town, just as much as my own.

I add this to my comment to validate the opinion I bring, and to let you know that I love a good political fight to protect the health and well-being of children and families.

What saddens me about this topic is that many have made this a political debate about freedom of choice. Folks, not everything is about you or I. Or our choice. And this is a good example.

Some of the youngest members of our community, our children, are suffering from poor dental care which has led to a health crisis. No parent education program, free toothpaste campaign or healthy food initiative is going to solve the root of this problem. This is a situation where we take one for the team and sacrifice one "choice" for the good of our community.

Ugh!! The study you are siting about lowered IQ is about children in India and China near manufacturing plants and they had POLLUTED water from factory run off!

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