Fluoride will help grow healthier teeth in Portland: Editorial endorsement
It seems that Clean Water Portland, which opposes fluoridation, has been doing some campaign advertising masquerading as a poll. One of the questions, as reported last week by The Oregonian’s Ryan Kost, is the following nugget of nasty: “Did you know the fluoridation chemical the Water Bureau would add to our water is called fluorosilicic acid and is not a naturally occurring fluoride mineral or even the pharmaceutical grade fluoride in toothpaste? Instead, fluorosilicic acid is an industrial by-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry.”
Some “poll,” eh?
The fake-a-poll tactic is interesting coming, as it does, from a group whose campaign appears to be based on the conviction that other organizations — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association, take your pick — chronically misrepresent the risks of fluoridation. If mainstream health organizations were as committed to the truth as Clean Water Portland is, the thinking goes, they’d be warning Americans about arsenic, lead, mercury, toxic waste, lowered IQs, bone cancer, thyroid and neurological problems, and so on.
All’s fair, it seems, in love, war and anti-fluoridation activism.
But the case for fluoridation is plenty strong enough to withstand such alarmism, which is why Portland residents should support Measure 26-151. Fluoridating Portland’s water, as the measure would require, is a safe and efficient way to address a very real problem.
Cavities are the problem, the scope of which is reflected in the state’s three “smile” surveys, the most recent available only in draft form. Released at five-year intervals beginning in 2002, the surveys indicate that a high percentage of kids in grades one through three have cavities. According to the latest numbers, 51 percent of Multnomah County public school kids in this age range have cavities, one percentage point below the statewide average.
Much has been made of the improvement since 2007, when 64 percent of kids statewide and 56 percent in Multnomah County had cavities. It’s a mystery why the numbers have improved so markedly, though the increased application of dental sealants surely played a role. Likewise, it’s a mystery why the numbers got a lot worse between 2002 and 2007. Nonetheless, cavities are the rule rather than the exception for young schoolchildren, both in Multnomah County and around the state.
By voting this month to fluoridate a water system serving more than 900,000 people, Portland residents can further protect the teeth of a sizable percentage of the state’s children and adults. Fluoridation opponents want voters to see skulls and crossbones when they open their ballots. Instead, voters should see healthy teeth and keep in mind that the vast majority of Americans served by community water systems — about 74 percent — receive fluoridated water.
It’s true that fluoridation additives are bad for you in high doses. But so are chlorine and ammonia, which Portland adds to its water to kill microorganisms. Notwithstanding the presence of these scary-sounding chemicals — in fact, because of them — the city’s water is exceptionally good, and it will continue to be so even when fluoridated.
Nothing is going to stop opponents from calling fluoridation additives an “industrial by-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry,” and that’s fine. In fact, let’s go with it. What matters is that water fluoridation is safe and that the “industrial by-product” added to the water grows strong teeth as effectively as fertilizer grows big plants.
So, what do you say we fertilize some teeth?