What’s the Matter with Portland?

Water Flouridation has been the policy of the US Dept. of Health since 1951. The benefits of small amounts of fluoride in public drinking water has been well studied. The low concentrations of fluoride used have been deemed harmless by numerous studies.

So why did citizens in Portland, Oregon just strike down a proposal to fluoridate their water:

Fluoride supporters, it appeared, had everything going for them.

Five Portland city commissioners had voted to add fluoride to the city water supply. Health advocacy groups, and many of the city’s communities of color, lined up behind the cause. And proponents outraised opponents 3-to-1.

But none of that was enough. For the fourth time since 1956, Portlanders on Tuesday night rejected a plan to fluoridate city water, 60 percent to 40 percent.

I’m honestly curious. During the 50′s and 60′s, the anti-fluoridation movement was bound up with the anti-communist conspiracy folks. Nowadays, what’s the beef?

Some of it seems to be an instinctive libertarian streak. If the government is for it, they’re against it. But much of it seems to be the sort of emotional denialism that we’ve seen in the anti-vaccination movement. Consider this poster:

Despite its financial disadvantage, however, Clean Water Portland proved better at mobilizing an electorate wary of adding a chemical to one of the nation’s cleanest sources of drinking water. Signs calling for residents to reject “fluoridation chemicals” popped up on lawns across the city even as stories in the national media popped up, poking fun at the city’s resistance to a common practice.

It’s those nasty, nasty chemicals, you see. We don’t want people adding NaF to our H20.

Orac at Respectful Insolence has more media from the anti-fluoridation side. He notes that they use the word “chemical” about a bajillion times, ignoring the actual definition of the word. My suggestion is that we go to Portland and preach the dangers of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide”.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nyscof Nys Cof

    Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific,Respectable & Growing

    More than 4,500 professionals (including 343 dentists and 538 MD’s) urge that fluoridation be stopped because fluoridation is ineffective and harmful. See statement: http://www.fluoridealert.org/researchers/professionals-statement/text/

    • Kurtis Rader

      That web site says 4000 not 4500. And I can’t find a list of those individuals. If it’s anything like the list of “experts” who claim that Climate Warming is a hoax then I’m not impressed. In the latter case it’s mostly people who have zero expertise on the subject. See “Project Steve”, http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve.

      Also, that web site is touted by Eric Mercola. An individual who is notorious for his anti-scientific viewpoints on matters of public health (and pretty much everything else). That’s not a good sign.

    • Noelle

      That’s not enough docs for me. I’m sticking with my medical education and the CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/FLUORIDATION/

  • Artor

    Yay for Portland! I understand the benefits of fluoridation, but I don’t see why everyone has to drink the shit. Put in in toothpaste & mouthwash, but please not in drinking water! I grew up in a city that fluoridated the water, and despite regulations of exactly how much fluoride is optimal, the city somehow managed to regularly exceed that limit by an unhealthy margin. My sisters & I all have chalky white bands on our teeth from fluoridosis, and I have an incisor that just flaked off all it’s enamel in one chunk. I have had far more cavities and dental work than either of my parents has had in their entire lives. Thanks to the miracle of fluoride!
    In short, there are a lot of reasons to be anti-fluoride than just anti-scientific woo. It’s ignorant and blinkered to pretend that there aren’t.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Eh, I’d say that’s a reason to be anti-fucking-it-up. I grew up in Arizona and California, so for the first ~10 years of my life I drank fluoridated water. Not only did it not stain my teeth, I have had far fewer cavities and tooth issues than my younger siblings, who drank Texas (unfluoridated) water during the early years. And yes, we all brushed with the same toothpaste.

    • Kurtis Rader

      You’re going to conclude from your personal anecdote that “there are a lot of reasons”? Really? I grew up in Portland (born 1961). I have an unusually large number of caries (aka cavities). Clearly the lack of fluoride is responsible. Is my anecdote more powerful than yours? Of course not. Nor should such stories be used to make conclusions about the benefits versus risks of fluoridation. Our stories are at best reasons to conduct studies to establish the truth.


  • Reginald Selkirk

    This is Portland. Maybe if they promised to use organic fluoride.

  • Keulan

    Maybe they’re afraid that water fluoridation will impurify their precious bodily fluids. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KvgtEnABY

  • Revyloution

    I live in Oregon, but not inside this water district. Oregon is a great piece of evidence to show that you don’t need religion to behave like an anti-science idiot. People here are ready to ‘believe’ in evolution, but fail to understand the studies behind fluoridation. They even have psudo-scientific looking websites and studies that look convincing.

    They have the same problem that creationists have. They fall under the delusion that a little bit of internet ‘research’ that confirms their previously held beliefs are more conclusive than the conclusions of a large scientific body of professionals.

    Who knows, fluoridation might be harmful. I have no idea of knowing on my own. Since I lack the extensive education and laboratory to test with, I’m going to continue to rely on the CDC and the ADA and assume that public water fluoridation is safe and the best way to ensure the best dental heath of the populace.

  • Gwenny Todd

    There is a problem these days with children being over fluoridated. Drinking water, toothpaste, mouth waste, visits to the dentist. Fluoride IS toxic you know. LOL

  • jennybento

    I’m a former PDXer, and I guess my feeling is the pro-fluoridation point has never been made strongly. More cavities is the only reasoning and people can avoid that with other behaviors. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong but if you don’t give people reasons to fluoridate other than “everyone else has it!” no wonder it doesn’t work very well.