Thursday, August 4, 2005
1. What is the top scientific reason upon which you base your stand?
Answer: It works! Water fluoridation, a modern adaptation of a naturally occurring process, adjusts fluoride upwards to an optimal level (1 part per million). Fluoride is in all water in varying amounts.
Never has a public health measure been so studied and proven. One of the largest studies ever done on fluoridation found 61 percent fewer cavities in Pacific Region fluoridated cities (Brunelle 1990). The Centers for Disease Control cites fluoridation as one of the top public health achievements of the 20th Century.
Head Start Children in The Dalles, fluoridated since 1956, had 68 percent fewer cavities compared to children in unfluoridated Hood River County. The Dalles kids had no severe cavities but 1 in 10 of Hood River kids did! 2004 hospital bills for cavity treatment for City of Hood River children requiring general anesthesia were $159,613. The Dalles per capita billings were 26 percent of that.
With implementation of California’s fluoridation law over 70 percent of Americans will enjoy cavity preventing benefits from fluoridated water. In Dr. Andrew Weil’s words: “The easiest, most efficient and most cost-effective means of making sure that children have adequate fluoride to protect against tooth decay is to support fluoridation of your area’s water supply.”
2. Should the public be trusted to fluoridate their own teeth, and why or why not?
Answer: It’s not a matter of trust, rather a question of what works best. Public Health scientists know programs which require individuals reliably remember to do something are ineffective.
Few actually ensure their children take supplements as recommended. Many are unaware of fluoride’s benefits. People don’t brush after every meal. Most don’t floss regularly.
Fluoridation, the individual acts of brushing, avoiding excessive sugar, flossing, good nutrition and regular dental care are all important. They work together.
Our area has started, funded, organized and supplied over a half dozen oral health programs, free dental services, tooth brush and hygiene “giveaways” and cooperative Head Start and Oregon Child Development Coalition programs without changing decay rates.
Citizens should not believe that there is some “new” or better plan to replace fluoridation.
Our Health Department and other medical and dental providers have good programs. Fluoride supplements through the schools have been tried.
We need the method which works.
Ideal public health measures only require citizens to go about their normal daily routines to be protected. Compared to fluoridation, individual based plans are ineffective.
Abandoning the proven method abandons effective prevention. The greater good of the entire population should be the governing concern with this question.
3. Who benefits from fluoride and how?
Answer: Sixty years ago Grand Rapids Michigan began water fluoridation. There was a 60 percent reduction in decay in the 30,000 school children studied.
Today nearly 70 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water.
Fluoride, incorporated into the tooth surface, prevents destruction from the acid bacteria make when we eat.
Swallowed fluoride ends up in the saliva and concentrates in plaque prolonging this topical effect.
Fluoridated water drunk while children are developing teeth causes protective changes in the shape of rear teeth and makes the enamel harder. This is the reason dentists can tell if you grew up with fluoridated water.
Fluoridation’s benefit to children is well known but adults also benefit. Adults drinking fluoridated water require fewer dental services (Grembowski 1992) and are more likely to keep their natural teeth (O’Muldane 1996). Elderly people whose gum disease exposes the fragile root services are at particular risk for cavities. Fluoridated water prevents these (Stamm 1990).
While all people with teeth are benefited, fluoridation is even more important for disadvantaged and under-served peoples. Fifty-five percent of the children at May Street school are economically disadvantaged and received assisted lunches. Concern for social justice should lead citizens to Vote No on Measure 14-23.
4. What is the best way to reach the population at high risk for tooth decay throughout the county?
Answer: County water district fluoridation would be the most effective way to reduce cavities for both high and low risk populations.
Fluoridation helps everyone with teeth, without their doing anything but drinking the water.
The costs are higher for small water systems but sodium fluoride’s ease of handling and lack of danger to workers makes it the best choice for small systems. This, however, is a decision for the water users of those districts.
In 2003, Palo Alto, Calif., home of Stanford University, and a community in which the majority have advanced education voted 79 percent in favor of fluoridation. So while economically disadvantaged people have more cavities, communities with even the highest levels of economic well being desire fluoridation’s dental health benefits.
Benefit unfluoridated communities receive from fluoridated neighboring towns is called the Halo Effect. Hood River City’s fluoridation is a good first step for our county.
Fluoridation opponents commonly argue that there should be only a countywide solution.
We believe City voters must decide what is best for the City residents. Sadly, 14-23, the decision before voters at this time, is not really about fluoridation. It seeks to prevent a thoughtful citizen decision by making fluoridation illegal.
5. Why do you feel this matter is such a hot-button issue?
Answer: Understanding fluoridation’s benefits we are deeply offended by Measure 14-23’s intent. It seeks to ban industrial waste, a proposal which few would disagree with. Yet the Measure is a confusing guise to prohibit even sodium fluoride, the highest quality water fluoridation additive.
We have seen firsthand children whose teeth are so rotten they must have general anesthesia, itself a serious risk.
We know the stress and discomfort cavities and their treatment bring. Childhood fillings need replacing in young adulthood.
As we age there is tremendous cost for replaced fillings; for crowns, bridges and root canals. Cavities are lifelong problems.
That such an effective and easy solution would be prohibited and prevented by a calculated and confusing measure is tragic.
We are strong supporters of the environment. It pains us that people who are for fluoride will vote for this measure because they don’t understand what it is doing.
We are profoundly disturbed — for our children, grandchildren and the lives they will lead; because of the unsubstantiated claims of harm to people and the environment; and because this cleverly crafted measure may block one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th Century.
6. Explain why fluoride does or does not pose a threat to healthy water.
Answer: Detailed reviews of the science over the many years of fluoridation have found only cavity prevention. The Dalles’ water is healthier than Hood River’s; Salem’s healthier than Eugene’s; Portland, Maine’s, healthier than Portland, Oregon.
The USGS says fluoride in the Columbia River varies as much as 0.119 parts per million.
Hood River’s fluoridation would add 0.000004187 ppm. This is over 28,000 times smaller than natural variation and about 19,000 times smaller than research found safe for salmon. This addition is unimportant.
Analysis of sodium fluoride from The Dalles shows the elements which 14-23 demands be zero are not detectable. Common foods contain many thousands of times more than fluoridated water.
Nearly 100 false claims of health and environmental harm have appeared in local media. Sodium fluoride has no effect whatever on lead in old pipes.
It does not injure animals or vegetation. No credible evidence shows that sodium fluoride interacts with chlorine to cause harm as claimed.
Local anti-fluoridationists view fluoridation a conspiracy so corporations can “dump” inconvenient toxic wastes (Riverkeepers Spring Newsletter).
As ex-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said “they’re wrong.” If true, zero percent rather than nearly 70 percent of Americans would be drinking fluoridated water.
More like this story
- Pro 14-23 HR Drinking Water Protection Committee
- Fluoridated water: ‘for the greater good of all’ Another voice column
- Fluoridation: a 50-year local question Treatment and education programs are nothing new to Hood River County
- From bag to bone How does fluoride prevent cavities? And does it come with unnecessary risk?
- What is ‘pure’? City hopes for clarity on issue as groups on debate the standards for water additives