1) As a delivery system, I believe adding fluoride to tap water is doomed to failure. In my work as a Reading Specialist at high-poverty schools, I have learned this ironic and sad fact: Many kids rarely drink water. Why should they? No one has taken the time to inform them how their bodies operate or the reasons why a human body requires a daily, steady stream of water in order to function optimally. In fact, common behaviors that teachers and parents consider to be problematic but normal—lack of focus, irritability, lethargy, apathy, head and body aches—are often just a case of mild dehydration.
Instead, due to their nutritional ignorance, children often opt to drink cavity-causing beverages such as sodas, juices, sport and energy drinks. This disconnection between diet and bodily health, has led to disturbing solutions as evidenced by one student’s outburst: “I don’t want to drink any stupid water; I just want some Tylenol so my headache will go away. By extension, in regards to water fluoridation, I am concerned about this notion: “I don’t need to learn how diet and oral-hygiene routines can improve my dental health, just give me some fluoride.”
2) If the true strength of fluoride lies in applying it topically, and the target demographic group is children, does it make sense to require our entire population to ingest it internally? Topically applied fluoride tablets, toothpaste and washes, are the only logical and equitable ways to deliver fluoride. Additionally, fluoride tablets, along with dental sealants, form a powerful duo in the battle against cavities and are provided to all PPS students FREE of charge. However, due to lack of education campaigns, many families miss out on accessing these valuable services.
3) Why are we not more concerned about protecting vulnerable populations who should never be exposed to fluoride—bottle-fed and in-utero babies, kidney patients, those with diabetes, thyroid and neurological diseases?
4) Once fluoride is added to our drinking water, it will require an expensive home filtration system to eliminate it. How will low-income folks, who often experience higher incidences of the above-mentioned health issues, manage this extra expense?
5) Fluoridated water has never been shown to eliminate cavities. Only a combination of nutrition and dental education, topically applied fluoride products and better access to available free and low-cost dental care services, has the best chance of making this goal a reality.
6) As a society, how can we in good conscience claim to want to protect the teeth and health of Portland children, yet fail to take more serious steps to reduce their often excessive consumption of sugar and other non-nutritional foodstuffs both at home and at school. Unfortunately, there are still many well-intentioned parents and school employees who use treats to reward or control a child’s behavior. Ironically, low-income students who qualify for the Federal Government’s, “Free and Reduced Meal Program” often consume a school breakfast or lunch that can contain 10+ teaspoons of sugar.
7) According to the Oregon Health Authority, obesity and its corresponding health comorbidities are at epidemic levels and cost Oregonian’s over $1.6 billion dollars in medical expenses every year. How much would it cost to implement more health and dental education programs? Certainly less than $7.6+ million! More importantly, such a step would be priceless in regards to the long-term health care savings due to reduced incidences of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and yes, even cavities.
What does this say about us as a society if we turn a blind eye to these other critical health needs and vote instead to simply drop a questionable chemical into our drinking water?
Because I fear that we will dismiss the need to address these foundational causes of dental and other health issues in children and that we will neglect to take the steps necessary to insure that children and their families learn the life-long skills of properly caring for their own bodies and teeth, I will vote NO to tossing a dubious drug and millions of dollars into our drinking water. Come on Portlanders, we can do better than this!