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Portland residents reject fluoridation, thwarting City Council that had mandated it

From Green Right Now Reports Portland voters have rejected fluoridation of the city’s water, with 60 percent of residents voting against fluoridation in a referendum on Tuesday. Clean Water Portland...

From Green Right Now Reports

Portland voters have rejected fluoridation of the city’s water, with 60 percent of residents voting against fluoridation in a referendum on Tuesday.

Clean Water Portland lead the fight against fluoride

Clean Water Portland led the fight against fluoridation. (Photo: Clean Water Portland)

The move will keep Portland, which has three times before rejected fluoridation, as the largest un-fluoridated city in the U.S..

In most large U.S. cities, officials have long fluoridated city water supplies, backed by decades of assurances from public health entities, like the Centers for Disease Control and dental groups, that fluoride delivered this way improves dental health and is safe to consume.

But anti-fluoride forces have been gaining ground in the scientific debate over fluoridation, which began in the U.S. in the mid-2oth Century.

Fluoride opponents say it’s the early science on fluoride that’s shaky, and that recent investigations show that fluoride consumption, may contribute to bone damage, an increased risk of thyroid disease and lower IQs in children. These concerns, among others,  have led dozens of smaller U.S. communities to drop fluoridation in the last two decades.

“We are proud of our Portland colleagues who used science and integrity to defeat fluoridation,” said Dr. Paul Connett, executive director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).

Citizens groups fighting fluoridation included Clean Water Portland, Sierra Club, the Portland branch of the NAACP and Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality employees union.  Clean Water Portland opposed fluoridation for many reasons, listing as No. 1, concerns that the fluorosilic acid used to fluoridate water is an industrial waste product of the fertilizer industry.

Fluoride is an industrial waste product (it’s true)

“The National Academy of Sciences and even fluoridation promoters acknowledge that FSA is an industrial waste byproduct from fertilizer manufacturing,” CWP wrote on its website. “FSA is a highly acidic and corrosive liquid that is entirely different than the natural mineral calcium fluoride. The FDA has flately dismissed claims that fluoride is a “nutrient” as promoters claim. Adding it to our water would expose Portlanders and our kids to another risky chemical at a time when we are already over-exposed to a host of chemicals from plastics to pesticides.”

Clean Water Portland PROMO

(Photo: Clean Water Portland)

Other reasons to reject fluoride include the fact that FSA can be contaminated with arsenic and lead; studies show its ineffective against tooth decay, and there is no reason to swallow fluoride to get the benefit of protecting tooth enamel.

“Drinking fluoridated water to protect against cavities is like swallowing sunscreen to prevent sunburn,” the group wrote on its website.

Portland joins Wichita, Kansas, which rejected fluoridation by a 20 percent margin six months ago, and comes just after an announcement by Israel that it will be ending its mandatory fluoridation program, according to FAN.

“The 21st century does not take well to anachronistic medical practices, and fluoridation is no exception.  This is why more than 120 communities have rejected fluoridation over the past 3 years alone,” says FAN’s Campaign Director, Stuart Cooper. “The trend is towards less fluoridation, not more.”

Too much fluoride hurts teeth

Fluoride concerns have risen in recent years as even government reports have shown people are being over exposed to the chemical.

Fluoride’s presence in fruit juices, tea and dental products, as well as in most urban drinking supplies in the U.S., caused a rise in adolescents with fluorosis, the teeth mottling that indicates excessive fluoride consumption. That prompted the US Health and Human Services Department to propose a lower safe threshold for fluoride in 2011  even as it continued to hail fluoridation as one of the Top 10 public health achievements of the 20th Century.

City councils continue to support fluoridation, despite the new science, seemingly persuaded by decades-long public health campaign to push fluoride as the magic bullet for dental health. Fluoride has been shown to strengthen tooth enamel, but it can be accomplished with topical treatments, via toothpaste and dental treatments.

Another argument against fluoridation that has caught the attention of some city councils, but not others, is that it may be a needless expense, if one believes that fluoride is best applied topically and not ingested.

In Portland, residents quickly petitioned to stop fluoridation after a newspaper reported that the City Council had conducted secret, (i.e., illegal) meetings on the subject before mandating in September 2012 that city water supplies be fluoridated. Many were outraged by the council’s circumventing public hearings.

The petitions, signed by at least 30,000 residents, stopped the City Council mandate and prompted the vote this spring.

Portland’s NAACP and national black leaders oppose fluoridation because fluorosis has been shown to be highest in communities of color, in part because mothers use fluoridated tap water to mix formula.

While Portland stands alone, for now, among large U.S. cities, most western countries, including the vast majority of Europe, do not fluoridate their water, according to FAN.

Studies by the National Research Council (NRC) and Harvard University have raised “serious questions about the safety of current fluoride exposures,” Connett said. In 2006, the NRC has called for further research into the role of fluoride in chronic disease, warning that it could increase the incidence of thyroid disease, disrupt the endocrine system and contribute to neurological disorders and bone damage.

But the government has not funded such research.

 


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