Thursday, August 4, 2005
1. What is the top scientific reason upon which you base your stand?
Answer: Voting “Yes” on Measure 14-23 will keep our drinking water clean and healthy. It simply prevents addition of industrial waste by-products or any other substances that would exceed the U.S. EPA’s health-based Maximum Contaminant Level Goals. A “Yes” vote is supported by numerous scientific studies showing that adding toxics to our water, even at low concentrations, causes adverse health effects.
A “Yes” vote prohibits adding fluoride contaminated with toxics like lead, arsenic, or mercury. Fluoridation backers claim they cannot find fluoride without toxics, but this hardly supports adding contaminated fluoride. Their claim that the measure is “deceptive” is an easier political spin than having to explain why keeping toxics out of our water is a bad idea.
Measure opponents say fluoridation is “safe and effective” but recent medical studies suggest serious health effects from fluoridation and therefore, many of the campaign supporters are opposed to fluoridation. While there may not be agreement in Hood River about whether or not to fluoridate, most people can agree that we should not add a fluoride compound to the water that is an industrial waste product or contains toxics and that is exactly what this measure would do.
2. Should the public be trusted to fluoridate their own teeth, and why or why not?
Answer: The question assumes that fluoride is necessary to tooth health. In fact, people can have perfect teeth without it.
Tooth decay is usually related to the ingestion of sugar, often in combination with poor oral hygiene and no dental care.
If medication is a matter of individual choice in every other instance, why should using or not using fluoride be any different? Instead of asking if people should be trusted to use fluoride or even care for their own teeth, wouldn’t it be just as, or even more appropriate, to be asking if the public should be trusted to make its own food choices?
Every person has the innate right to choose whether or not to fluoridate themselves and their children, and it is plainly unethical to mass-medicate the general population.
The children that some fluoride activists claim to want to help are the poor Hispanic population.
We believe a better approach would be to support a local dental program that could provide better education on cavity prevention and free dental care (including topical fluoride treatments) for those in most need in our community. Fluoridation is expensive. There are better and safer ways to prevent tooth decay.
3. Who benefits from fluoride and how?
Answer: The question that should be considered more closely is “Who is harmed from fluoride and how?” As far as benefits, the most recent studies show that there is limited, if any, benefit from drinking fluoride in your water. Recent studies also conclude safety concerns outweigh any potential benefit. The local opponents of the Measure are throwing around “scientific” studies comparing The Dalles’ dental health to Hood River’s, but there are not significant numbers of patients used or criteria that would make the comparison scientifically valid.
At risk is anyone who drinks a large volume of water as they could exceed their recommended dose and potentially be harmed. This includes athletes, diabetics, people with impaired kidney function, and babies fed formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. Harmful effects include spotting of the teeth or fluorosis, not just a cosmetic problem, but an indicator of elevated levels of fluoride in the bones, linked by some researchers to degenerative bone disease.
Who benefits most from fluoridation? The phosphate fertilizer industry, which is saddled with a toxic waste by-product they must pay to dispose of, if not sold to cities for fluoridation.
4. What is the best way to reach the population at high risk for tooth decay throughout the county?
Answer: According to the CDC, 25 percent of children account for 80 percent of children’s cavities (MMWR, Aug. 17, 2001).
This high-risk group has low-income, poorly educated parents who can’t afford to see a dentist. Ethical and dosage issues aside, water fluoridation might be the best way to reach this target population if it actually worked.
Current data, however, shows that fluoridation’s benefit (even without proper controls for topical exposure) is slight indeed (Brunelle and Carlos, 1990; Locker, 1999; McDonagh et al, 2000).
Bonney Lake, Wash., recently developed an alternate program to fluoridation which attacks the root problem not addressed by fluoridation — access to care.
The program includes a comprehensive education program including classroom education, oral health screening, and referrals for free dental care.
We believe the best way to reach our at risk population is through education on proper diet and dental hygiene. Get the sodas and candy out of our schools and if the federal government won’t take responsibility for basic health needs for its citizens, find community solutions to offer those that can’t afford it basic dental care.
5. Why do you feel this matter is such a hot-button issue?
Answer: People tend to get emotional when their beliefs are challenged.
Health professionals (who have primarily relied on reviews, or reviews of reviews, rather than researching the primary literature on fluoridation) have trusted in contention of government and their trade organizations on this issue, that the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation is beyond debate.
Moreover, they believe that others should too (which is why they sell fluoridation based on its endorsers).
They are irritated that anyone would or could stand in the way of mandating a policy they sincerely believe would reduce the suffering of children, a policy described by the Centers for Disease Control as “one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.”
Fluoridation critics find proponents’ stance to be arrogant, violative and unscientific. Science advances by debate, they argue, and the science of any public health policy (especially one that would use an untested, contaminated product as a pharmacological agent) should be debatable. Moreover, they argue (effectively, based on corroborating documentation) that promoters’ conclusions regarding safety and effectiveness are not supported by the data.
Finally, they believe water fluoridation to be an absolute violation of the individual’s right to informed consent.
6. Explain why fluoridation does or does not pose a threat to healthy water.
Answer: Clean, healthy water supports the healthy function of all living beings from human communities to fish in our rivers.
Adding toxic substances like lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and, yes, fluoride, to the water we drink will interfere with the vital functions that keep us all alive and healthy.
Additionally, fluoride, as defined by the EPA, is a toxic substance that has significant effects on living organisms.
There is no scientific debate that both the contaminants in fluoride compounds and fluoride itself accumulate in our bodies.
Little is known about their accumulative and synergistic effects, but we know adding more chemicals to our environment increases the risk of disease.
It makes no sense to add toxic compounds to our water to treat teeth when cheaper and better alternatives are available. Much of the fluoride would end up in the river as it cannot be easily filtered out.
The fish in the Columbia already exceed federal safe limits for toxics.
We cannot afford to add anything more that will increase the toxicity of our fish and our river. Voting “Yes” on Measure 14-23 is a common sense way to keep our water healthy.