An overflow crowd of Portlanders displayed their independent streak by challenging the ‘experts’ at the city council session dubbed ‘the great fluoridation debate.’
After the guest speakers, mostly medical professionals and doctors, presented the ‘party line’ – Oregon’s children’s teeth are rotting and the best way to fix it is water fluoridation – opponents presented a barrage of arguments as to why that was a bad idea.
The debate, which went on for six and half hours, was a great display of democracy in action, and at the same time a sobering look at scientific group think. The crowd groaned when one of the professionals said fluoride studies are so technical and complicated that only experts are qualified to evaluate them.
Addressing the council, a woman said, “I voted for you to run the city, not my health. That’s my job.”
Another said, “Why are the experts talking about Oregon statistics when it’s Portland’s we’re concerned about?” She went on to say that children’s dental health in the Portland metro area is much better than that in the rest of the state.
Let People Vote
Kimberly Kaminski, speaking for Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, asked the council not to usurp the people’s vote and let the issue be decided by the 2014 election.
Genuine concerns were expressed on both sides of the argument. Two of the guest speakers represented disadvantaged groups that are especially vulnerable to tooth decay because they can’t afford nutritious food and don’t have access to adequate dental care. They see fluoridation as a solution to their problem.
On the other hand there were those suffering from thyroid disease and chemical sensitivity who said the addition of fluoride to the water would aggravate their problems.
IQ at Risk?
Perhaps the most alarming argument against fluoridation came from a well-spoken middle-aged man who said recent studies are finding that fluoride exposure has a deleterious effect on IQ. This prompted a response from Commissioners Fish and Leonard who expressed doubt as to the studies’ validity. The man responded that more studies are needed but are not being funded.
Two Different Approaches
The medical professional sees that fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay and decides the cause doesn’t matter, just fix the water by adding a toxic waste product of the phosphate industry. This would raise the fluoride content of the water from 0.1 ppm to 0.7 ppm, a presumably safe level.
But the concerned citizen sees that the water is not the cause, that the cause is mostly a sugar-filled diet, and says, leave the water alone; get rid of the bad diet. Not only that, they say the solution proposed by the experts poses a whole new set of health risks. As the man who warned of IQ loss said, “Would you rather have a decayed tooth or a lower IQ score?”