Yes to Fluoride: A Smart Health Equity tool.

By Coalition of Communities of Color in Portland, Oregon. By Gerald Delany (SEI, Co-Chair), Carmen Rubio (Latino Network, Co-Chair), Lee Po Cha (IRCO), Matt Morton (NAYA) and Joseph Santos-Lyons (APANO).

In a typical Oregon third grade classroom of 25 kids, at least eight have untreated dental decay and five of those students have seven or more decaying teeth. If that’s not enough to make your mouth hurt, consider that children from low-income and communities of color, and especially immigrants and refugees, have two to three times more dental decay. Clearly, we are in a crisis and so we’ve joined the Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth coalition to call on our policymakers enact water fluoridation. Its about time.

For a city that values equity and justice, we can no longer turn our backs on the disparities and lifelong health, education and economic consequences. Fluoridated water is the right answer we need to improve dental health for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or income.

This is about more than “just” a toothache or a cavity. Untreated dental decay contributes to a host of health problems including ear and sinus infections, the ability to eat nutritious foods, and heart disease. It is also a major barrier to education and a driver of school dropout because kids, particularly the 1 in 5 with rampant decay, are in pain and miss school or can’t concentrate when they’re there.

Preventative fluoride saves us the cost of expensive medical treatment. For families struggling to make ends meet, the cost of going to dentist, combined with cultural and language barriers, can keep them from seeking help until the problem is severe. As a result, more children are having multiple fillings or root canals in the emergency room.

Some people ask why we don’t just improve those school programs, teach better dental hygiene, or find another way to help those most in need. There are three problems that underline why universal access to fluoride is important: we’re already doing those things and we still have a dental health crisis, no matter how well parents care for their children’s teeth they still need the added protection of fluoride, and fluoridated water is by far the most affordable solution.

We know that fluoride improves our dental and general health.

Studies have shown that fluoridated water reduces dental decay by 25 percent. Children, whose adult teeth can erupt with decay, benefit. Pregnant women, whose gums are more prone to disease, benefit. Older adults, who often take medications that dry their mouth and lead to decay, benefit. Fluoridation is a public health benefit for the all our communities, and at the same time is part of the solution to the serious racial and economic dental decay disparities we face.

Over 60 years of scientific and health evidence shows that fluoridated water is safe for people and our environment. More than 200 million people across the U.S. drink it every day including in places like Beaverton, Vancouver, Salem, and Corvallis. It’s time to stop depriving Portlanders of this basic benefit.

We urge our Mayor and Portland City Council to adopt fluoridation as a matter of equity, and we oppose a voter referral as expensive and unnecessary.


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    Please read our proposal to really solve the tooth decay problem in the city. Hint It doesn't cost 5 million dollars.

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    A topical application to a child's tooth after age six is ok. Putting it in the drinking water? Well, if a sunscreen is good to reduce skin cancer and sun burn do I drink it? I think that the answer on flouride is in. It is what makes up about 18 percent of prozac. And goodness knows that dumbing down the population is important. Hitler thought it was good so I guess it must be fine. On topic enough for ya?

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    The funny thing? Most people think mineral water is good for you. Funny ol' world, isn't it?

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    The thing is, there IS indeed broad consensus about adding the naturally occurring element, fluoride, to water. Every single major health organization supports it, including mine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. There are individuals who are opposed, but based on beliefs, not facts. I have not seen any science based organizational opposition to fluoridation of water systems.The depth of the pseudoscience, misinformation and conspiracy theories of opponents is breathtaking. The reality is that fluoride is a a natural element, a beneficial nutrient, that is important to the integrity of bones and teeth. In addition, this is an equity issue, as beautifully articulated by the original post.

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    The advantage of fluoridated water is small and can be had other ways. Supporters gloss over the uncertainties and risks, such as increased rate of hip fracture due to fluorosis and the chance of overdosing infants who drink formula made with tap water. Those who take food or drink that has been greatly reduced risk higher intake, as do those who eat produce watered with fluoridated tap water.

    And residents cannot opt out if they do not want fluoride. They will be dosed against their will.

    The source of fluoride is the scrubber stacks of phosphate fertilizer plants. it is that industry that gains the most from wafluoridationtion, as there toxic waste would be quite costly to dispose of if cities did not add it to their drinking water supplies.

    More info from Environmental Working Group: Health/Toxics: Fluoride

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      Third paragraph should be:

      It is that industry that gains the most from water fluoridation, as their toxic waste would be quite costly to dispose of if cities did not add it to their drinking water supplies.

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    Just a reminder that most of the industrialized world does not fluoridate their water supply. Yes it is common to fluoridate something else like salt or milk, but the key detail is you can opt out and/or regulate how much you get.

    To have this exceedingly heavy handed process in a lame duck session with zero transparency is going to haunt City Hall and has basically equated equity with 'surprise' politics.

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