Fluoridation opponents seek a charter amendment that would "prohibit addition of fluoride (to city water) that is an industrial or manufacturing by-product," according to the ballot title approved for circulation. The initiative's proponents have until Jan. 17 to submit the roughly 30,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, and there's little reason to believe they can't get the job done.
The practical effect of such a charter amendment would be to block future city councils from voting to fluoridate, as Portland's did last year. Supporters of fluoridation stinging from Tuesday's loss should remember that things could get even worse as the decision will lilkely never be overturned as more people awaken to the dangers of fluoride.
“We are proud of our Portland colleagues who used science and integrity to defeat fluoridation and the public relations blitzkrieg that backed it,” says Paul Connett, PhD, Fluoride Action Network's (FAN’s) Executive Director.
Portland’s clean water campaign was spearheaded by Clean Water Portland (CWP), a broad coalition formed in August 2012 after a newspaper revealed secret ongoing fluoridation meetings with Portland City Council members that were illegally kept off the record. With virtually no public input, the City Council mandated fluoridation for the city on September 12. CWP then led an unprecedented effort that gathered over 40,000 signatures in less than 30 days to halt the mandate and force the referendum vote.
Fluoride chemicals are the only chemicals added to public water for the purpose of medication. Most western countries, including the vast majority of Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
“Most of Portland’s media falsely reported that fluoridation promoters had science on their side and that opponents used emotion,” says Connett.
It's a very illogical and unscientific method of improving dental health since the ingestion of fluoride has never been proven to assist in dental health in any study.
Although fluoride has been proven to cause neurotoxicity in animal models, very little published research has elaborated on acute fluoride poisoning and neurotoxicity in adults and children. A report last year in a peer-reviewed open access journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.
“Those opposed did their homework, relying on recent scientific findings from the National Research Council (NRC) and Harvard that raise serious questions about the safety of current fluoride exposures.”
In 2006, the NRC warned that current fluoride exposures in the US may increase the risk of thyroid disease, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders, and bone damage -- particularly among people who have medical conditions that increase their vulnerability to fluoride. The NRC called on scientists to investigate fluoride’s role in chronic disease, but government health authorities have opted against funding this research.
Portland’s vote comes just six months after voters in Wichita, Kansas soundly rejected fluoridation by a 20% margin, and follows close on the heels of an announcement this April that Israel will be ending its mandatory fluoridation program. In Ireland, legislation was proposed this spring that would make it a criminal offense to add fluoride to public water supplies, and in Canada, the number of people drinking fluoridated water has dropped by about 25% since 2008.
“The 21st century does not take well to anachronistic medical practices, and fluoridation is no exception. This is why more than 120 communities have rejected fluoridation over the past 3 years alone,” says FAN’s Campaign Director, Stuart Cooper. “The trend is towards less fluoridation, not more.”
Fluoridation proponents had a massive war chest, raising almost $1 million. They used their nearly 4-to-1 funding advantage and media clout to flood Portland with misleading ads and editorials touting fluoridation as an urgently needed tool for solving the “dental crisis” in the city’s poor neighborhoods.
But there really wasn’t a dental crisis in Portland as the Oregon Department of Health’s own reports indicate. Fluoridationists tried to hide this inconvenient truth, pressuring state officials to not publicize new Smile Survey data showing Portland children’s decay rates have improved without fluoridation and, in fact, are better than most fluoridated cites.
“Fluoridationists had no evidence that any Portland child was fluoride-deficient; but did prove that some Portland children are dentist-deficient. We urge the legalization of dental therapists in Oregon who will treat the low-income children who dentists refuse to treat,” says Connett.
The discussion should now be strengthened in many other regions. It should now continue elsewhere in as many other cities and states as possible until a greater sense of awareness and education is accomplished. Portland may reconsider fluoridation again someday, and when it does city leaders and voters will be influenced to a greater extent by the strong support and evidence showing how ineffective fluoridation is especially at preventing anything but good health.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly