House Bill 3099 would force Oregon cities including Portland, Eugene, Bend and Ashland to add fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water even though each of these cities has specifically voted against fluoridation. Fluoridation promoters have been unable to convince most local communities in Oregon to fluoridate their drinking water, so they are pushing the Legislature to remove local control.
As a dentist for over 25 years, I believed water fluoridation was beneficial. In the last few years, scientists are finding fluoridation is unnecessary. Current research is clear, the benefits of fluoridation are limited – if any – and the risks significant. While the lack of fluoridation’s benefit is not the prevailing view among U.S. dentists, most European dental associations are keeping up to date with the science and no longer recommend fluoridation or fluoride supplements.
There is an impressive amount of new scientific information on the risks of water fluoridation that should be considered.
In 2006, for example, the data from a major Harvard study funded by the National Institute of Health found that boys who drink fluoridated water faced a 500 percent increased risk of bone cancer.
In 2006, the National Academy of Science directed the U.S. EPA to lower the current 4 ppm drinking water contaminant standard for fluoride. The report found that the current standard did not protect the public from the risks of increased bone fractures in the elderly, damage to teeth known as “dental fluorosis” and other risks.
While drinking water is typically fluoridated at 1 ppm, not 4, a number of the leading scientists who authored the report have openly said the EPA should lower the maximum contaminant level of fluoride to 0.4 ppm.
In fact, in the wake of the national research council’s report, the Center for Disease Control, American Dental Association and Oregon Deptartment of Human Services have quietly issued new warnings against the use of fluoridated water to mix infant formula. Formula made with fluoridated water contains 250 times more fluoride than mother’s milk. To avoid excessive fluoride exposure, an American Dental Association representative recently testified to Oregon legislators that mothers should use bottled water to mix infant formula. Boiling water and simple home filters do not remove fluoride.
Bottled water is impractical for many low-income families, especially those (traveling) on public transportation. If the Legislature decides to force fluoridation on Oregon communities, it will knowingly be giving low-income children what even the promoters of this bill admit is an excessive dose of fluoride. Furthermore, the idea that the Legislature would make Oregon’s drinking water unusable for Oregon’s youngest residents is inconsistent with the principle that drinking water should be safe for everyone.
The right of local communities to decide whether fluoridation makes sense has never been more important. If Oregonians want to retain this right it is definitely time to let your state representatives and senators know.
Bill Osmunson DDS, MPH, operates Aesthetic Dentistry of Lake Oswego.