Portland Fluoridation
May 22, 2013 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Will Portland have fluoride in its water? This is a hot button issue with people on the pro and the con sides feeling strongly about the issue. See also "Why I’m voting for fluoridation in Portland today".
posted by josher71 (234 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a communist plot.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:06 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


ope poe
1 grain alcohol and rain water, please.
posted by bobjaben at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Pinellas County, FL (where I went to high school and where my parents still live) stopped fluoridating their drinking water in 2011. I am pleased to see they voted last fall to bring it back!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


WSJ: Tooth and Nail: Fluoride Fight Cracks Portland's Left
Pro-fluoriders have their own rock-band supporters. Among them, apparently, is Colin Meloy, member of Portland's revered alternative band, The Decemberists. "How can you hate on the GOP for being creationist science deniers and then go on about how vaccines and fluoridation are poison," reads a January post on his Twitter account, which is linked from the website colinmeloy.com. In April, the account tweeted disdain for the anti-fluoride documentary, "An Inconvenient Tooth."
posted by BobbyVan at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


Won't someone think of the precious bodily fluids?
posted by Mister_A at 8:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Portland 2030: You will know the hipsters by their teeth.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]




Keep Portland's Teeth Weird
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


At least their fluids won't be sapped and impurified!
posted by Mister_A at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aren't these things supposed to have a link to autism? I can't take any vaguely leftish anti-science crusade seriously unless there's also an ASD tie-in.
posted by Slothrup at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I ran into an anti-fluoride woman once. She explained to me that "they" get the fluoride by scraping it from the inside of smokestacks. Then they convince the public that it's good for them so they can put it in the water as a way to get rid of it. This struck me as an unnecessarily complicated way to dispose of something.
posted by diogenes at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


The anti-fluoridation radio spots are something to be heard. Just short of precious bodily fluids.
posted by jgaiser at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suppose I should actually read the links, but they will make me sangry.
posted by Mister_A at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amongst the list of "cons":

21) Dental fluorosis may be an indicator of wider systemic damage.
22) Fluoride may damage the brain.
23) Fluoride may lower IQ.
24) Fluoride may cause non-IQ neurotoxic effects.
25) Fluoride affects the pineal gland.
26) Fluoride affects thyroid function.
27) Fluoride causes arthritic symptoms.
28) Fluoride damages bone.
29) Fluoride may increase hip fractures in the elderly.
30) People with impaired kidney function are particularly vulnerable to bone damage.
31) Fluoride may cause bone cancer (osteosarcoma).

33) Fluoride may cause reproductive problems.
34) Some individuals are highly sensitive to low levels of fluoride as shown by case studies and double blind studies.
35) Other subsets of population are more vulnerable to fluoride’s toxicity.


I am surprised to see Lupus absent from this list and thus must question it's quackery.
posted by three blind mice at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I can see why some might not consider it essential but I am getting a string whiff of anti-vax from the con camp.
posted by Artw at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013


I am so unbelievably angry that this failed.
posted by curious nu at 8:18 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do think fluoridation is unnecessary, but I don't think it's actively harmful.
posted by Mister_A at 8:18 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fluo Ride is my favorite rapper.
posted by mullacc at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does the government legislate against the love between man and mineral?
posted by Damienmce at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


My town's water is not fluoridated, so when the kids visit the dentist, they get a fluoride treatment -- it's painted on their teeth.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2013


So I guess that's the decision: Portland, Ore., rejects adding fluoride to drinking water
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every year there's a parade in St. Johns, a neighborhood in peninsular North Portland that used to, for many years, be a small town unincorporated into the city. I live nearby, and so my wife and I usually go check out the parade, which is actually a decent little production, with plenty of public school marching bands and rodeo gals and classic cars and local politicians and small-scale floats.

This year we saw a pro-fluoride group march by with placards talking about healthy teeth; they had a person in a giant anthropomorphic tooth costume, they were all smiles, it was a pretty straightforward and on-message deal as far as that goes.

I joked to my wife that there'd be trouble if there was also an anti-fluoride group marching, but I probably shouldn't have been surprised to see them marching along indeed four or five slots back in the parade lineup. The contrast was interesting; less smiling, more apparent tension, but beyond that the message discipline was totally missing. You had the anti-tax people, the anti-spending people, the anti-chemicals people, the anti-big-pharm people, the water-sovereignty-for-its-own-sake people, the IT'S EUGENICS people (or, well, person, it was just the phrase "+ EUGENICS" hastily scribbled in marker at the bottom of an unrelated sign), some guy with a megaphone who didn't seem to want to elaborate beyond "IT'S A LIE, IT'S A SHAM".

It was a weird sunny-day capstone to hearing localized fluoride position ads showing up on my goddam Pandora stream.
posted by cortex at 8:21 AM on May 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


Chemicals bad.
posted by deathpanels at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Portland will allow deer/birds/bears to shit in their drinking water, causing boil orders, but poor kids get bad teeth. They don't call it stumptown for nothing.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


You had the anti-tax people, the anti-spending people, the anti-chemicals people, the anti-big-pharm people, the water-sovereignty-for-its-own-sake people, the IT'S EUGENICS people (or, well, person, it was just the phrase "+ EUGENICS" hastily scribbled in marker at the bottom of an unrelated sign), some guy with a megaphone who didn't seem to want to elaborate beyond "IT'S A LIE, IT'S A SHAM".

Please tell me the guy in the rainbow afro wig was there, too! He's at all those fringe-groups-get-a-soapbox events.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:24 AM on May 22, 2013


It's okay, whooping cough is just another one of those old timey fads Portlanders latch onto.
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't notice him, but it was such a dizzying array of schismatic sign-waving that he could very well have been a gorilla waltzing through a basketball game.
posted by cortex at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to add fluoride to your water yourself? Like, you buy drops and put a certain number in a gallon of water or something?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Excuse me, is this water free-range?"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


I am getting a string whiff of anti-vax from the con camp.
posted by Artw

Poetry.

"Feed me Mandrake"
posted by clavdivs at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kitchener and Waterloo are neighbouring towns here sharing a border and almost everything else in common. Last year Waterloo voted to remove fluoride from their water supply. Kitchener still has it, though.

I am going to be really interested to see the metrics on dental caries in the region over the coming years.

And I'm really, really glad that we're in Kitchener.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2013


Seattle's new city slogan: "Give us your tired, your poor, your toothless masses."
posted by duffell at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to add fluoride to your water yourself? Like, you buy drops and put a certain number in a gallon of water or something?

When I was a kid the standard approach to DIY fluoride was small pink sugary pills you'd take once a day. Putting it in the water is more a matter of workable civic-scale passive distribution, as far as I can tell; there's nothing special about having it in solution.
posted by cortex at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Moving from the reddest of red states to the deep blue Pacific Northwest I frequently made the observation that most people were the same, but the crazies you ran into were the biggest indicator of the different political climate.

Instead of people claiming funding for preschool was tantamount to soviet takeover, we had people protesting Nalgene for making scientific equipment used in animal experiments.

In the red state, we had judges argue the government did not have the right to outlaw cockfighting. In 2005. In the blue state, a girl in my Rhetoric class, without a shred of Irony, argued that people who do not agree with welfare policies should be sent to government classes where they will be taught why they should agree.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, there'd probably be a riot if they banned WiFi, so that's safe at least.
posted by Artw at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


as far as I can tell; there's nothing special about having it in solution.

Considering that it only works topically, I'd have to say that yes, indeed there is something special about having it in solution.
posted by fifthrider at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2013


How well does the regular use of a fluoride toothpaste make up for the loss of fluoride in the drinking water?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2013


They totally should ban WiFi: it's making the people sick. If you want wireless Internet, you'll have to move to Beavertron.
posted by Nelson at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]




Wait.

Well, that'll show me for linking an article to cite something I thought was common knowledge without reading said article first.
posted by fifthrider at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to add fluoride to your water yourself? Like, you buy drops and put a certain number in a gallon of water or something?

We get small chew-able once a day pills for the little one.

They are prescription-only, which is a minor annoyance for us, but I'm sure keeps a lot of kids from getting them.
posted by madajb at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013


I would be okay with fluoridation if we could prevent the fluoride from being tainted by dangerous Dihydrogen Monoxide. That stuff is the real issue here.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Two years ago Calgary de-fluoridated the drinking well. I'm sure you can guess what happened.
posted by themadthinker at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those who didn't click on fifthrider's wikipedia link, the very first sentence is...

"Fluoride therapy is the delivery of fluoride to the teeth topically or systemically in order to prevent tooth decay..."

Don't worry fifthrider, happens to all of us.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, we moved from a place with fluoridation to a city without it. If I go to a new dentist and ask him or her when this move occurred, they always get it right.
posted by sfred at 8:38 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do low-income kids (to say nothing of higher-income we-only-drink-bottled-water ones) actually drink enough tap water that fluoridation is even effective anymore?
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2013


Is it possible to add fluoride to your water yourself?
Fluoride mouthwash is quite common.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:42 AM on May 22, 2013


Anecdotal evidence: We had well water until I was 7. I had lots of cavities even though I brushed my teeth twice a day. My wife took fluoride supplements prescribed by her OB during her second pregnancy. My second son hates brushing his teeth but has never had a cavity.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2013


I grew up in the metro area with no fluoride in the water, and on my childhood dentists recommend my folks gave me and my brother fluoride tablets. Every night after you brush your teeth, you sucked down a tablet. We did this every night, pretty much well into high school.

And, mind you this is anecdotal, and I'm not citing myself as a reason to not fluoride water, but I've actually been told by numerous dentists throughout my life that I have fluorosis of the teeth; splotchy-shit-brown spots in certain areas from overdosing on fluoride. It's not pretty. I'm really self conscious about it. And once I find a dentist I'm not terrified of, and approximately 1.5 sacks of cash, I'll get it fixed. So this is a really hard topic; I fully understand that there are concrete benefits to water fluoridation, but can we at least admit that on occasion there are downsides? Is that conversation even allowed between the camps?

This was a really hard one for me, and I honestly left that spot blank on the ballot.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


you'll have to move to Beavertron

Oh please tell me this a real place and not just a typo.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


"The anti-fluoridation radio spots are something to be heard. Just short of precious bodily fluids."

Christ, don't people know what's in radio waves?
posted by Eideteker at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't look like it passed, did the anti wifi nutbag get elected ?
posted by iamabot at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2013


Of course there's room for discussion even though that seems to be a lost art nowadays.

This reminds me of the people in my state who are dead set against wind turbines.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2013


What would be great is if all the people who stood on the side of the road and waved signs against "fluoride chemicals" would now organize to make sure that all of Portland's children actually received an affordable, viable substitute.
posted by mimo at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


> Do low-income kids (to say nothing of higher-income we-only-drink-bottled-water ones) actually drink enough tap water that fluoridation is even effective anymore

Do low-income children drink less tap water than they did... uh... at some other time? Not sure where you were going with that. But anyway, it's not just in water when you drink a glass of it; it's in the water you cook with, brush your teeth with, etc. As someone who grew up without fluoridated water and has the fillings to show for it, I think this is a good thing. (I have a sweet tooth, so I can't blame it all on the lack of fluoride.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2013


Senor Cardgage: Oh please tell me this a real place and not just a typo.

It's technically called Beaverton, but a lot of us who live there affectionately refer to it as Beavertron.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2013


My town's water is not fluoridated, so when the kids visit the dentist, they get a fluoride treatment -- it's painted on their teeth.

The ones that go to the dentist regularly do, anyway. What proportion of your town's kids is that?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Looks like we'll have to remember to give our kid her vitamins with fluoride still. I predict this issue will be back on the ballot in the next couple years. The fear uncertainty and doubt campaign was always going to be easier than the science based evaluation of the benefits.

On the upside the two other less focussed measures passed - funding for kids in low income households, and the parks measure, yay healthy(ier) kids and trails.
posted by iamabot at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also on the ballot, Pacific Ethanol and Chinook Book co-founder Tom Koehler easily defeated bookseller David Morrison, whose platform was largely based around removing wireless Internet from schools.

Whew.
posted by iamabot at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2013


Man. it's bad enough this is all over my Facebook. Pro-flouride would do itself a favor by not furthering the perception that the only anti reasons are crackpot. Yes, the public health science is compelling. Nevertheless, many civilized and not whack-a-doodle nations have made the stance that water is the one resource that noone can opt out of and, from a rights-based standpoint, water should not be deliberately altered for public health except to increase its safety from bacteria and other impurities. (For instance, European countries that take this rights-based stance put flouride in salt, which is easier to avoid if one so chooses.)

This is a qualitative/motive argument and public health proponents of flouride do their position a lot of harm by making hand wavey appeals to conspiracy and "save the poor children in POVERTY." It's deliberately insulting and it's why flouride in Portland will either pass by a slim margin or not at all. People do not respond well to being patronized in politics.

That being said, if we really cared about poor kids we would put real resources behind helping them with, you know, real dental health access. PPS has had flouride supplements in the schools for a long time. One anecdata point, I grew up with PPS supplements, my parents have crappy teeth and barely ever took us to the dentist and yet I've only ever had one cavity. Lucky I guess, but that's all to say that non-fluoridated water isn't the end of the world.
posted by Skwirl at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


I would be okay with fluoridation if we could prevent the fluoride from being tainted by dangerous Dihydrogen Monoxide. That stuff is the real issue here.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:34 AM on May 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:06 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Parts of)Ontario and (Parts of)Quebec are about as close as two cultures can get. Ontario adds fluoride, Quebec doesn't.

Cavity rates are slightly higher but similar in Quebec. It really makes me wonder if fluoride is all its cracked up to be.
posted by Yowser at 9:07 AM on May 22, 2013


from a rights-based standpoint, water should not be deliberately altered for public health except to increase its safety from bacteria and other impurities.

Could you clarify what right fluoridated water violates?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A study of the oral health of children between 1990 and 1999 found that kindergarten children in Quebec had 40% more cavities than children in Ontario and the United States, and that tooth decay affects 56% of Quebec children in Grade 2.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


I stand corrected, Bunny Ultramod! Hmm.
posted by Yowser at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish this got better treatment in the local press. One one side was a coalition of dentists and doctors. On the other were naturopaths, acupuncturists and chiropractors. Yet, they were treated often as being equally credentialed.

Come to Portland and sample our artisanal horse shit.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


would do itself a favor by not furthering the perception that the only anti reasons are crackpot.
On a grand scale, I would say that this scheme has not worked for the Democrats in the last three national election cycles. So no sense thinking that this will work for the members of the pro-dental-health party either.

/derail
posted by Blue_Villain at 9:12 AM on May 22, 2013


When I was little, we did over-the-counter fluoride rinses that tasted like bubble gum, but a friend with yound kids said they don't encourage those for kids anymore, because they're so sugary. Who knew?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2013


The right to have control over what you put in your body. The right of the consumer to buy an unadulterated product, or at least one that is not deliberately adulterated.

You probably could figure that out on your own and just want a effigy to debate against so I should say that I don't have much of a horse in this race. There are way bigger issues Portland politics should be focusing on in the area of environmental justice especially. That's why it's annoying that pro and con arguments have been so loud. Flouridate or don't floridate. Whatever. It's small beans compared to air pollution, safe routes to schools, childhood asthma, obesity etc...

Info on how other countries have debated this issue here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoridation_by_country . That's as good of a jumping off point as any for the rights-based argument if you really want to click around.
posted by Skwirl at 9:19 AM on May 22, 2013


Could you clarify what right fluoridated water violates?

Is that a trick question? Obviously, the right to refuse medical treatment (however well-advised it may be).

I like fluoridation and I like vaccines but I don't think that initiating courses of medical treatment on people that they cannot refuse is a great road to go down.
posted by enn at 9:22 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The right of the consumer to buy an unadulterated product, or at least one that is not deliberately adulterated.

Find me a major city that doesn't "adulterate" it's tap water in some way. It's certainly not Portland.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is that a trick question? Obviously, the right to refuse medical treatment (however well-advised it may be).

It's not a trick question. That right is not absolute. The US Government has a long history of imposing medical treatment if it is for the greater common good.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really hope these people also abhor iodide in their salt. IT'S A CHEMICAL ADDITIVE!!!!11111

Seriously. Is it any wonder we have so many problems here because too many people don't fucking understand how to science?
posted by qcubed at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


munchingzombie: "I wish this got better treatment in the local press. One one side was a coalition of dentists and doctors. On the other were naturopaths, acupuncturists and chiropractors. Yet, they were treated often as being equally credentialed. "

In other words, the people with the greatest negative impact on their livelihood if the measure passed were the ones pushing for it. This is one of those things that gets overlooked in the debate. The dentists are all "hey, please fluoridate and give us less business", but the woo-woo's are all "evil profiteers want you to fluoridate".
posted by Runes at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


People do not respond well to being patronized in politics.

More like, when one's position isn't well-supported by logic and evidence, there's a tendency to reframe the issue so that it becomes about tone.

There is no ballot initiative in Portland about "do you think some people are condescending?"
posted by leopard at 9:34 AM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


qcubed - you can be non-iodized salt. (Though I'd wonder why .. .)
posted by k5.user at 9:36 AM on May 22, 2013


is that a trick question? Obviously, the right to refuse medical treatment (however well-advised it may be).

Fluoridated water is a treatment that acts primarily, perhaps exclusively, on children. It's proven positive effects against tooth decay are not even debated by reasonable people. It has already been established by prior law vis a vis Christian Scientists that you most certainly do NOT have a right to refuse medical treatment for a child because of your own peculiar beliefs.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


> I really hope these people also abhor iodide in their salt. IT'S A CHEMICAL ADDITIVE!!!!11111

I hate to create the appearance of agreement with the anti-fluoridation crowd, but their point is that you can get un-iodized salt way more easily than you can get un-fluoridated water (if the water is fluoridated city-wide).

My guess is that many of the science-phobic types also do abhor iodide in their salt.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My point isn't that I want to debate and be nitpicked into being the anti-flouride spokesperson that y'all are so desperately searching for. My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one. That is why flouride failed in Portland and proponents would do well to learn from the mistake for future public debates.

So instead of me answering every nit-pick, how about a link to the hierarchy of argument instead? http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html
posted by Skwirl at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


you can get un-iodized salt way more easily than you can get un-fluoridated water

You can probably get bottled water in any store that sells un-iodized salt.
posted by saturday_morning at 9:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


UGH. I am almost too angry for words.

Many of the fluoride/anti-fluoride arguments on my facebook feed included someone saying "well, I just don't think that the government should be allowed to add chemicals to the water."

But that is *exactly* what the government should be doing - modifying public resources for the greater good of society. And most of the big-gov liberals who were arguing against fluoride would agree with that sentiment (if they thought about it abstractly).
posted by hopeless romantique at 9:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


> My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one. That is why flouride failed in Portland

We can go back and forth on this, but I would attribute the failure to fear-mongering way more than I'd attribute it to a solemn philosophical disagreement over common-good-vs.-individual-rights.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is no ballot initiative in Portland about "do you think some people are condescending?"

There is not enough popcorn on the planet to go with the enjoyment I would have in watching that debate. Not enough on the planet!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:42 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one.

I am so sick of being denied my right to yell fire in a crowded theater.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:43 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


My point isn't that I want to debate and be nitpicked into being the anti-flouride spokesperson that y'all are so desperately searching for.

I don't think anybody is doing that. What I'm looking for is an actual right-based argument based on the way our government addresses the subject of rights. There are people in this country who will turn anything into a rights-based argument based on the idea that the government has no right to compel them to, I don't know, pay taxes or educate their children or whatever. So when the subject of rights comes up, I like to know the actual argument.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:43 AM on May 22, 2013


Nutjobs and more nutjobs along with anti-science mumbo jumbo. They are raising up the age of aquarius by decalcifying their pineal gland by avoiding halides, like fluoride chloride and bromide. They also mention that fluoride is of a higher concentration than chloride and the others.

A good thing to take though is iodide, obviously not a halide. Except for the fact that it is.

I know I should educate these people and not sneer at them, but I am tired. I went to school for a long time to learn a lot about how things work and have a speciality in chemistry and biochemistry. I know what I am talking about and still every day I have to deal with so much woo type thinking that I just give up. The crazies have won, because people like me give up and just say fuck it I don't care anymore. Sure the nazi xenu aliens are in a massive plot to fluoridate the water to dirty our vital fluids and calcify your pineal gland. How can you deal with someone who is "not even wrong" or "wronger than wrong"?

I am beginning to question the sentience of most of my fellow humans. I just wish the education system wasn't so screwed up that people could be qualified to understand the most basic simple way of how things work. If that could happen the woo would disappear and I would be content.
posted by koolkat at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one. That is why flouride failed in Portland

Do you have ANY evidence for this over the much more likely hypothesis that it failed because idiots believe stupid things?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


The dentists are all "hey, please fluoridate and give us less business", but the woo-woo's are all "evil profiteers want you to fluoridate".

Wouldnt an evil, profiteering dentist be against flouridation?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am an idiot, because we recently moved to a small municipal well-based water system and I never gave any thought to fluoride. Guess I better check on that.

My mom had no fluoride in her town's water growing up, and had soft, brittle, constantly-breaking teeth. She spent thousands on bridges and fillings, to the point where we were begging her to just get them yanked and get false teeth. Which my dad..who grew up in the same town..got when he was in his 20s, because his teeth were so bad when he was in the Air Force they just said "fuck it" and yanked them, and got him false teeth.

I've had fillings, but nothing like either of them experienced, and I sure as hell don't want that for my kid.
posted by emjaybee at 9:47 AM on May 22, 2013


Wouldnt an evil, profiteering dentist be against flouridation?

I think you're on to something here.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one. That is why flouride failed in Portland and proponents would do well to learn from the mistake for future public debates.

And what lesson should they learn exactly? What's your solution?

People often make decisions based on their gut feelings and then rationalize after the fact. If you oppose something, you can always derive an argument based on your right to not do it. If you support something, you can always define an argument based on the greater good. So what? What's the lesson?

When people try to articulate an argument to defend their position but fail to come up with something convincing, they often shift to a meta-argument about tone and tactics and strategy. This is just an extension of the above point.

I hope this has provided a valuable lesson to everyone!
posted by leopard at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm against floridation of the ballot box. I demand a recount, Portland!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Skwirl has done us a service in trying to explain why people voted against fluoride. I've got some anti-fluoride friends of friends on Facebook, and every single one has talked about the "arrogance" and the "right to have unadulterated water". It's definitely the way the anti-fluoridation people think.

But that way of thinking is bullshit. First of all, people don't have a fundamental right to city water of any kind; it's a service provided by the city for the common good. Second, they don't have a right to "unadulterated" water. City water is adulterated in all sorts of ways, mostly treatment to kill microbes in it. Finally the fictitious individual right to "water however I want it" would not in any way trump the real right for citizens to have city services provided in the way best understood to fulfill the public good.

Unfortunately the bullshit thinking carried the day. Voting against fluoridation is a perfect example of why there should not have direct participatory democracy. Because people, en masse, are often ignorant and illogical.

(Related; California is expecting another whooping cough outbreak this year. Because a bunch of ignorant soft-headed parents think they shouldn't vaccinate their children. But hey, only one infant in 100 who gets whooping cough dies.)
posted by Nelson at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [26 favorites]




Enn, while I'd argue that the right of patient autonomy to refuse treatment isn't an obvious issue with Fluoridation, it is an interesting point.

I think its somewhat of a false comparison to equate treatment of a public utility by the city with the treatment of a person by a medical professional. Prevailing practices such as Iodinized salt and all other forms of water treatment suggests that the public accepts the treatment of products should be approached differently the the treatment of people with medical interventions.

First, the city is already doing a lot to water for public health purposes, such as adding trace amounts of chlorine. I feel like people are going to say "sanitation" is different than "supplementation" but both chlorination and fluoridation are modifications of water aimed at preventing illnesses, gastroenteritis and dental decay respectively.

Also, I'd argue that people's ability to avoid Fluoride in city water is roughly equivalent to their ability to avoid Iodinized salt. No one is threatening you with fines if you choose to dig a well, buy a filter or switch to bottled water. It's simply incredibly difficult to avoid city water. Similarly, avoiding Iodine is hard. There's more to salt than what's in your shaker. You will need to either eliminate salty and processed food (something any heart failure patient will tell you is not easy to do) or switch to home cooking the all of your food. A lot of people have problems following those two dietary regimens who have much stronger motivation than wanting to avoid chemical additives.

On preview; damn, this thread is running amok. I think Drinky Die is making a good point, although sarcastically. Public utility does trump personal rights, actually, all the time. So I don't think saying "my right to refuse x is not related to the utilitarian argument for x" is a slam dunk in this case. Okay, I'm out.
posted by midmarch snowman at 10:00 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there any polling on why people opposed fluoridation? Given that it's Portland, I sincerely doubt the majority opposed it because it's forcing a medical treatment on people (preventing dysentery seems similar to me.) I find it far more likely that misinformation campaigns about supposed risks of municipal water fluoridation scared enough people that it put it over the line. But, then, the few posts I read opposing it before the vote tended to at least in passing mention health risks.
posted by R343L at 10:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've got some anti-fluoride friends of friends on Facebook, and every single one has talked about the "arrogance" and the "right to have unadulterated water". It's definitely the way the anti-fluoridation people think.

But how much of this is a parroted fig leaf to cover irrational beliefs? I don't think people's Facebook posts are a good guide; it would be nice to get some real polling.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2013


The sanest arguments against fluoride. ...And Why They're Still Wrong
posted by josher71 at 10:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would love to see a Venn diagram of Portland's anti-fluoride folks and their anti-vaxxers.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


One by one, the anti-fluoridation activists take their turn at the microphone (which Zia McCabe has swiftly fixed). Perhaps the most enthusiastic cheer goes to Cliff Walker, a board member of the NAACP's Portland chapter. The African-American organization was the only significant minority organization to endorse against fluoride.

"You guys didn't get compensated," yells an activist as Walker takes the stage, "but I'll buy you a beer!"

"We are so proud of an organization that trusted us to do the right thing," Walker says. "Now we can focus on solutions—solutions that actually work."

Hiram Asmuth, a Clean Water Portland volunteer coordinator, closes the speeches by leading a chant of "Clean!" and "Water!" He says he's a socialist who now counts Republicans and Occupiers as his allies.

(From here)
posted by josher71 at 10:26 AM on May 22, 2013


The right of the consumer to buy an unadulterated product, or at least one that is not deliberately adulterated.

It comes in bottles. Glass ones, if you like, so you can reuse and recycle. Perhaps there can be a Kickstarter for an artisanal water company that does delivery by bakfiets where one out of every 100 bottles comes with the chance of carrying dysentery for extra authenticity.
posted by holgate at 10:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had been told by a friend living in Portland that "Johns" would sometimes ask for a hooker who not using flouride was toothless. Meanwhile in the rest of the nation, at least in places using flouride, people are dying daily, according to the newspaper obiturary pages.
posted by Postroad at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2013


Dear Hiram Asmuth, if you call yourself a socialist who counts Republicans among your allies, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! (or rather: This ain't one of those stopped clock moments)
posted by symbioid at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2013


My point is that you cannot refute a rights-based argument with a utilitarian public health based one. That is why flouride failed in Portland

Do you have ANY evidence for this over the much more likely hypothesis that it failed because idiots believe stupid things?


Well, let's not call 60% of Portlanders idiots who believe stupid things (sorry, I'm defensive of my people). The debate, if you paid attention to anything beyond the crazy ads in the Merc and such, was really about the role of government and the protection of natural resources, and not whether flouride degrades your bones or makes you crazy or whatever. If you listened to any of the public statements made by the anti-flouridation organizers, this was their main argument and this was really the crux of all the shouting matches on public radio and in the editorials and whatnot. There were definitely folks who really pushed the "flouride is bad because woo-woo" argument. There were definitely fringe people who thought that flouride was going to ruin the beer. But I really don't think this was the thinking that ultimately caused the measure to fail.

This has failed 4 times in Portland now. Portland is very peculiar and protective about its drinking water, and by and large it has paid off because the drinking water here is admittedly awesome. The trend here seems to have always been to opt for as little treatment of the water as possible, be it flouride or covering the reservoirs or whatever. And that has more or less been the heart of the debate this time around too.

Personally I would have been happy to see it pass because, well, we have a real dental health problem here and this would have been a simple and pragmatic solution that would have helped many and had a negative effect only on a sort of ideological level. That said, I don't think it's fair to categorize all of the anti-flouride folks as anti-science, tin foil hat wearers, hurf durf, because that really is not the case. The debate has been much more interesting and nuanced than that. Which is why it's been so captivating to follow, so contentious and filled with passion. It would be sad to reduce the whole thing to anti-science idiots v. the modern and enlightened.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:38 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can see why some might not consider it essential but I am getting a string whiff of anti-vax from the con camp.

It doesn't help that Jenny McCarthy threw her support behind the No vote.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


We are most upset here in Portland that it will undoubtedly accelerate the rust on tall bikes.
posted by asfuller at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nelson - First of all, people don't have a fundamental right to city water of any kind; it's a service provided by the city for the common good.

I realise that it's only a minor part of what you're saying, but access to clean water is a universal human right, depending how seriously you take the UN:
through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.
Personally I think that water with fluoride still counts as "clean", but I'd be willing to bet that at least a subset of the anti-fluoridation crowd would disagree. Which doesn't make them right, but at least gives their argument a bit of context: if you honestly believe it to be (potentially) harmful, then it's not crazy to discuss this as being a rights issue. For another part of your argument, I would argue that chlorine and fluorine in the water are conceptually very different: chlorine is "we're giving you clean water", while fluorine is "we're medicating you".

To be clear, what I've seen of the evidence makes me think that it's a good intervention: in a vote, I'd be pro-fluoridation. But I think it's disingeneous to deny that there is a valid point buried in the anti- argument, and it boils down to the usual left-right tension of deciding where the public good should start to override individual autonomy.

On a related note, isn't America one of the countries where all the flour (...and therefore bread, etc.) has folic acid added to it?* Is there a similar anti-folic-acid campaign, or do people not care about that one?

The risk/reward analysis is a bit different (I'd guess that the most likely route to harm from folic acid is someone dropping a bag of the stuff on your foot, and birth defects are scarier than bad teeth), but it seems like most of the same arguments about choice and freedom would apply.

*Folic acid ("folate") deficiency in pregnant women leads to birth defects. Several countries, including the US IIRC, fortify their flour and occasionally other cereal products with the stuff to ensure that everyone gets enough. It's a dirt cheap and brilliantly effective public health intervention against a rather nasty problem.
posted by metaBugs at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2013


What about FOOF?
posted by Mister_A at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2013


access to clean water is a universal human right

Maybe according to the UN feel-good resolution, but not according to the rights in US law. Well, it's complicated, but water is a commodity that one generally has to purchase access to in the US. And in much of the US "drill your own well" is considered a perfectly reasonable way to ensure citizens have access to water. The whole question of "right" here is a bit of a derail, but since it was invoked it is worth being precise about it. Maybe Portlander's imagined right to fluoride-free water could be satisfied by dipping their jugs into the Willamette from time to time. (Or for those fortunate enough to live in SE, there's a lovely fresh water spring on the Reed campus.)
posted by Nelson at 11:01 AM on May 22, 2013


The debate, if you paid attention to anything beyond the crazy ads in the Merc and such, was really about the role of government and the protection of natural resources

Did I just hear State's Rights?
posted by eriko at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for the right to water, Nestle is looking to privatize and bottle the water up in both Oregon and Washington. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe of Nestle believes things like "Human Beings Have No Right to Water".
posted by sleepy pete at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a related note, isn't America one of the countries where all the flour (...and therefore bread, etc.) has folic acid added to it?

Plus Vitamin D in milk, primarily to prevent rickets, and various supplements in packaged breakfast cereal.
posted by holgate at 11:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're interested in hearing about the local political context of this, and the way the pro-fluoride side probably hurt their cause by the approach they took, you should definitely read the Willamette Week's take. (A paper, like all the major Portland media outlets, that strongly endorsed fluoridation.)
Tonight's vote also means the end to a populist drama sparked by Portland City Council last summer, when then-Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard stealthily pushed the addition of fluoride to the Bull Run water supply, backed by a quiet campaign by a lobbying group called Upstream Public Health.

The revolt was instantaneous.

Fluoridation opponents packed City Hall and gathered more than 33,000 signatures to place the question on the May 2014 ballot. City Commissioners moved the vote up to this May—claiming they wanted to resolve the question quickly but raising even more suspicion among opponents, who believed they were trying to sneak the controversial chemical past voters.

That public distrust only deepened this spring when the Oregon Health Authority delayed release of its 2013 Smile Survey, a study of dental health, by three months—and the study showed cavities in Portland were down, even without fluoride in the water.
posted by overglow at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2013


"The whole question of "right" here is a bit of a derail,"

'Rights,' I guess, are major issue to anti-fluoridation people (which is still a surprise to me) so it's not really a de-rail, but I'm not sure how productive any discussion about human rights will be on the internet in a debate the is more emotional than anything else.

Human rights aren't like Magic the Gathering Cards; you don't have a set of them in your hand to be deployed with objective consequences. Instead they are philosophical constructs that have to achieve broad consensus, which we then use them to help guide our laws. I guess people feel like they have the right to water that has chlorine in it, but not fluoride, which is fine. Seems exceedingly arbitrary, but I can't really argue with that. Democracy is great for a lot of things but internal consistency isn't one of them.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, I don't think it's fair to categorize all of the anti-flouride folks as anti-science, tin foil hat wearers, hurf durf, because that really is not the case. The debate has been much more interesting and nuanced than that.

Junk science is not nuance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The debate, if you paid attention to anything beyond the crazy ads in the Merc and such, was really about the role of government and the protection of natural resources, and not whether flouride degrades your bones or makes you crazy or whatever.

This sounds nice, but if you don't think fluoride is harmful, then what is the actual objection beyond some sort of vague, "government shouldn't do stuff to things" handwaving?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:27 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would love to see a Venn diagram of Portland's anti-fluoride folks and their anti-vaxxers.

O
posted by graphnerd at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


That said, I don't think it's fair to categorize all of the anti-flouride folks as anti-science, tin foil hat wearers, hurf durf, because that really is not the case. The debate has been much more interesting and nuanced than that.

Junk science is not nuance.


Did you not read my comment? The debate was largely not about science, which is why it was interesting. Most of the anti-flouride folks did not deny that all of the science available pointed to the efficacy and safety of flouride. That wasn't the point, and that made it interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:40 AM on May 22, 2013


There were definitely fringe people who thought that flouride was going to ruin the beer.

No, that's hops.
posted by holgate at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This sounds nice, but if you don't think fluoride is harmful, then what is the actual objection beyond some sort of vague, "government shouldn't do stuff to things" handwaving?

Yes, this has been exactly the heated conversation Portland has been having ad nauseam for months.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2013


I'm also in Portland, Lutoslawski, and the only rhetoric I saw from the anti-fluorides was about health effects. Their very slogan was "No to fluoridation chemicals". I can't speak to the discussions you were involved in, but I disagree with your characterization of the public debate.
posted by chrchr at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


'Rights,' I guess, are major issue to anti-fluoridation people (which is still a surprise to me) so it's not really a de-rail, but I'm not sure how productive any discussion about human rights will be on the internet in a debate the is more emotional than anything else.

Er, sorry if I contributed to a derail. I wasn't hoping to settle the question in-thread, and I'm certainly not equipped to have an argument about the intersection between Human Rights and American law. I was more hoping to point out that there is a non-crazy point of view from which believing oneself to have the "right" to have fluoride-free water is pretty reasonable. I don't agree with it (as I said, from the evidence I've read I'm pro-fluoridation), but I think it's valuable to try exploring where the opposition are coming from. Depending on your level of cynicism, it either helps to build empathy with them and forces you to consider novel counterarguments, or teaches you how best to talk them round to your side. After all, you can't change someone's opinion unless you understand their underlying assumptions and priorities, which are often quite different to what you'd expect.
posted by metaBugs at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't help that Jenny McCarthy threw her support behind the No vote.

$20 to whoever photoshops that dummy onto this site.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2013


As someone who also has suffered lifelong dental fluorosis, I admit to mixed feelings about fluoridated water.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:00 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, this has been exactly the heated conversation Portland has been having ad nauseam for months.

Ok, so even leaving aside chrchr's comment, your response gets me no closer to understanding what you say the anti-flouridation crowd's objection actually was. Unless it really was, "government shouldn't do stuff to things".

Was that the argument?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2013


the only rhetoric I saw from the anti-fluorides was about health effects

Huh, that's interesting. I found most of the health effects rhetoric, especially the most junk science sort, to be pretty limited to places like KBOO and paid ads in the Merc (which did in fact support the measure officially). OPB, the Oregonian, the WW always seemed to write off the health stuff as paranoid rambling and focused much more on what the limits City Hall ought to be (which might have had something to do with the whole debacle about getting it on the ballot in the first place), and which was quite a bit more interesting. It would be interesting to see exit polls or the like to see why people voted the way they did. Does that information exist in any way?

I would love to see a Venn diagram of Portland's anti-fluoride folks and their anti-vaxxers.

O


Ha. Though the vaccine exemption rate in Oregon is ~6%, which, while around the highest in the country, is not quite 60% (though it's true that some of the yuppier charter type schools here have exemption rates nearing 70% iirc).
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2013


ALL RIGHT YOU SHEEPLE: follow the money. Stop blaming common citizens and start looking deeper. Who stands to benefit the most?

That's right. Dentists. And doctors. But dig deeper: pharmaceutical companies, making fluoride supplements such a Fluoro-Cal or Fluro-Cal + D, and Fluoranus (floor-AH-nus)-- which will come in suppository form.

These companies are gonna make a killing. But dig deeper still. Then take a step forward. Now a step back. The conspiracy here is so deep, it goes beyond governments telling mothers to put license plates in their son's underwear for tracking purposes. It involves private companies, tied to medical health professionials, both of whom form a triangle with the entire health care industry.

For example: dentists get visits from the pharmaceutical industry and health products manufacturers. Do you really think those Oral-B toothbrushes, or Oral-B dental floss, or Oral-B fluoride rinse are free? Yes, they seem to be free, but they come at the cost of YOUR HEALTH via the triumvirate conspirators I wrote about above. We become ingrained with the ideas that "oh, I can eat this Bit-O-Honey because I just brushed," or "it's all right if I eat this five-month old beef jerky, cause I can just floss." We are made fools who believe that bad behavior is mitigated by good practices.

Lastly, do you think that the common citizen really has it within him or her to organize and pass any legislation without the approval of the government and their supporting lobbies? The rule of majority only applies to cash, folks. And who has cash?

Well, let's see. How about Coca-cola and PepsiCo. Sales have been tapering off, and they've tried, and failed, to expand their markets with new beverages. You've read it here first, folks: soon all water in the US will be without fluoride, as Pepsi Maximum F and Coke Fluoro come to the market, after the release of Desani Flo2Oh! and Aquafina H2Flo launch and the fat cats and big wigs laugh their way to the bank. And dentist.
posted by herrdoktor at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been mentally debating crawling under the ready-made pileon in here. "Quixotic" would be a mild way of putting it. But to hell with it.

I'm pro-fluoride, to the point of favoring publicly-funded clinical fluoride treatment in schools. Please raise my taxes to do it. Iodide in salt is brilliant and vitamin D is a vital nutrient and putting it in milk is a great way to level public health. I think anti-vaxxers are worse than morons, they're a serious public health menace. And chemtrailers should stick to writhing on the floors of their clapboard churches and speaking in tongues.

And I voted against fluoridating the municipal water supply, on grounds of efficacity, choice, health and environmental concern and principles of public health policy. All of my concerns are actually decently spelled out in the 'con' link in the FPP, which errs principally by being over-inclusive and getting into sketchy areas as it goes on.

Let the poop-flinging begin.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:18 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


> Do low-income kids (to say nothing of higher-income we-only-drink-bottled-water ones) actually drink enough tap water that fluoridation is even effective anymore

I don't know what's true now, but a few years ago you used to be able to buy fluoridated bottled water for kids, based on this argument that nobody drinks much tap water anymore. I'm late to the thread and somebody probably already said this.
posted by not that girl at 12:22 PM on May 22, 2013


have made the stance that water is the one resource that noone can opt out of

they can certainly use the city provided water just to wash dishes and flush toilets, and buy whatever they wish to drink at the grocery.

The right to have control over what you put in your body. The right of the consumer to buy an unadulterated product, or at least one that is not deliberately adulterated.

None of these rights are infringed by a city providing free, potable, supplemented water to citizens. If the citizens don't want to put it in their bodies, they can use it for external purposes and use their consumer rights to buy the products they'd prefer to put in their bodies.

It only makes sense to vote against this if it has negative effects on health.
posted by mdn at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2013


The sanest arguments against fluoride. ...And Why They're Still Wrong

The helpful graphic for point #7 is just wonderful.
posted by klanawa at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2013


"government shouldn't do stuff to things".

Was that the argument?


Well, if you want to boil the whole thing down in the most uninteresting and blanket way possible, yes, that was the argument.

Portland has a very interesting and often paradoxical culture about what services should be public and what should be widely available but private. It's not always a good thing - it's usually confusing and inefficient, which is also somewhat fitting of the culture here.

We have one of the largest concentrations of 501c3's in the country. And they are relatively well funded, considering Portland's private funding capacity. Still, access to dental has historically been a real problem here. But in the past couple years that has started to turn around, which is part of why cavities in children have been dropping. Major institutions like the OCF have made dental health of children their number 1 priority, putting millions of dollars in care access. Now, by and large, if you are a child you will have dental care access regardless of your economic status, if you want it (obviously education and transportation and such are problematic issues that flouridation would have side-stepped). So the argument largely came down to folks feeling like it was better to go the route of making sure kids get dental care without the blanket solution of flouridating everyone's water.

That it was about the water was really the crux of the issue. In a lot of other arenas (I'm looking at you, art tax), Portland seems a lot more willing to fork over the cash to fund city-wide programs even with a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to solving that problem (Right Brain, Young Audiences, etc). The water is a real point of pride here for folks, which fueled a lot of the emotion in the debate, more so, from my perspective and experience, than the junk science stuff. Though people here like the White Album as much as anyone, I don't think the majority that voted the measure down did so for fear of their precious bodily fluids.

Like all municipalities, the government here has a history of really fucking shit up. Folks are wary. People want kids to not have cavities and to get flouride treatments if they need them but they don't want that forced upon them.

Like I said, I would have liked it to pass. In the end, at least to me, the reasons to vote against it were outweighed by the proven positive impact it would have had. But I'm just trying to point out that the issue was bigger than idiots v. geniuses. Imagine, both sides might have some valid arguments. Reasonable people can disagree.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:35 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The anti-fluoridation radio spots are something to be heard. Just short of precious bodily fluids.

Where can I, a person not living in Portland but with access to an internet, hear these radio spots?



Is anti-fluoride on an upswing or something? I've come across multiple stories about this recently, and a few weeks ago I saw a half-dozen people in front of city hall with some very densely-written signs against the fluoride.
posted by RobotHero at 12:43 PM on May 22, 2013


The vote was deciding whether to start adding fluoride or to continue not adding it, right? In that case I'm not surprised by the outcome. It was likely a small minority of pro-fluoride folks, a small minority of anti-fluoride folks, and a huge majority of I-don't-give-a shit-so-let's-keep-things-as-they-are folks.
posted by rocket88 at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2013


Portland 2014: No more iodine in our salt!
Portland 2015: Nitrogen-free fertilizer today!
Portland 2016: Antibiotics discriminate against microbes!
posted by gottabefunky at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, this wasn't just a Portlandia episode? This vote actually happened?
posted by klangklangston at 12:59 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everything you see on "Portlandia" is true.
posted by chrchr at 1:27 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, there is a collective understanding that one of the undeniable real-world results of this will be a huge increase in dental caries in children, yes? If so, do the anti-fluoride people have any suggestions for a public health program that will address this with anywhere near the success rate of fluoridated water?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:35 PM on May 22, 2013


See, I didn't vote on this, mostly because I haven't been able to find the answers to the questions I wanted answered. I am kind of glad that the issue lost, though, but not because it means the woowoo crowd won, but because the answers I want might be found in the meantime before it comes up again for a vote.

First, (and due to the news, google is failing me), who was the original author of the legislation? I can't find the link now, but I seem to recall an article detailing that the person who was "consulting" the city on adding fluoride to the water system actually worked for the company that would end up with the contract. That conflict of interest kind of stood out to me as a red flag against just letting this go through.

Second, the actual effects of adding fluoride to the water at the levels proposed. I couldn't find what the dosage they were proposing, but something seemed off about it. Again, all the headlines on google right now are about how the measure failed, so finding those details is hard at the moment. I know the EPA says that MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) is 4.0 ppm (parts per million). I seem to recall seeing something like 7 being proposed, and that worried me, though again, finding sources again isn't happening today.

Third, the secondary order effects, i.e., what is this going to do to the infrastructure that currently exists in the city? What effect will this have on the public water fountains throughout the city, many of which are approaching 100 years old. Modern fluoridation did not start until post WW2, so how will this affect these older pipes and water delivery systems? No one seems to be able to answer that for me.

Fourth, of course, comes down to cost. More specifically, does this mean my water bill will go up? What about if it comes up later that the new fluoridated water damaged my plumbing, because, you know, it wasn't originally designed to handle this. What if the affects don't show up right away, but years from now? Does that mean we will suddenly be in a crisis where our entire water system has to be replaced?

As someone who grew up with fluoridated water, I find the whole "fight cavities" argument a little bit hard to swallow, given that children will still get cavities due to diet more than from non-fluoridated water. Even with fluoridation, if the diet is high in sugars and wheat/potato starches, their teeth are going to be bad no matter how much water they drink/brush with.
posted by daq at 1:36 PM on May 22, 2013


Just to be clear, there is a collective understanding that one of the undeniable real-world results of this will be a huge increase in dental caries in children, yes? If so, do the anti-fluoride people have any suggestions for a public health program that will address this with anywhere near the success rate of fluoridated water?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:35 PM on May 22 [+] [!]


Um, why would there be an increase? The water is currently not fluoridated, so the rate of cavities would probably remain the same as it is now. The status quo is no fluoridation, and the current levels of cavities in children should remain unchanged. Now, if someone were putting large quantities of sugar into the water system instead, I imagine we'd see more cavities...
posted by daq at 1:38 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, there is a collective understanding that one of the undeniable real-world results of this will be a huge increase in dental caries in children, yes?

No, because the vote was against introducing it in the first place, not to discontinue an existing program.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2013


Interesting. When I get home, I will be curious to read up on the relative dental health of children in Portland.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2013


(though it's true that some of the yuppier charter type schools here have exemption rates nearing 70% iirc).

Jesus fucking Christ.
posted by kmz at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just as a partial demonstration of how the science behind this is harder than you think, one of the things I wondered about is how reputable and apparently undisputed studies can show that A) ingested fluoride is clinically useless, and B) children who ingest fluoride have do in fact have increased amounts of it in their teeth.

It took a while but I did find this. It indicates that while the ingested fluoride is indeed found in their teeth, it is apparently not in a form that imparts resistance to bacterial acid.
Importantly, this means that fluoride incorporated during tooth mineral development at normal levels of to 100 ppm (even in areas that have fluoridated drinking water or with the use of fluoride supplements) does not measurably alter the acid solubility of the mineral. Even when the outer enamel has higher fluoride levels, such as 1,000 ppm, it does not measurably withstand acid-induced dissolution any better than enamel with lower levels of fluoride. Only when fluoride is concentrated into a new crystal surface during remineralization is it sufficient to beneficially alter enamel solubility. The fluoride incorporated developmentally—that is, systemically into the normal tooth mineral—is insufficient to have a measurable effect on acid solubility.
It's way more fun to hoot at the supposed morons (I certainly enjoyed doing it with respect to, e.g. chemtrailers above) but actually understanding this fraught issue is a lot more work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


George_Spiggott, according to the Mercury link posted a couple times above, an important part of the mechanism is that fluoride in the saliva after drinking water has an effect similar to topical fluoride treatment. If drinking fluoridated water has no effect, how do you explain the 40% difference in tooth decay between cities with and without municipal fluoridation?
posted by chrchr at 2:05 PM on May 22, 2013


Jesus fucking Christ.

The internet is one of the greatest advances of modern times but it does make it easier for nutters to find one another. It becomes a support group for ignorance. See also: the vaccination forums at, say, mothering.com.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


chrchr -- that was a comparison between Quebec and Ontario. There are other differences between the two provinces (Ontario is far more urbanized and compact, for example, at least suggesting the possibility of better availability of oral care.) For contrast, compare Ireland with Belgium and Denmark, or indeed nearly all of Western Europe since the second world war with the US.

But I'm not here to rehash all the arguments -- it's incredibly complex on the science alone, let alone the culture. It's loaded with bogons on both sides (though granted, the bogons on the pro side are, shall we say, subtler) and this thread isn't going to accomplish it. I am merely pointing out that it's complicated.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2013


Western Europe doesn't fluoridate their water, but they fluoridate their salt. That's another misleading argument the anti-fluoride side made a lot of hay with.
posted by chrchr at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2013


Ah, here are the stats I am looking for:

A 2007 report from the state Department of Human Services said 35 percent of Oregon first-through-third graders had untreated dental decay, a higher percentage than in neighboring states with more fluoridation. Oregon children also have higher dmf (decayed, missing, and filled teeth) scores than any other state, according to the Oregon Health Authority, again in large part due to the lack of fluoridation.

Community water fluoridation reduces the rate of dental caries (also known as tooth decay or cavities) by at least 25 percent. It has been proven to reduce tooth decay for nearly 70 years with more than 3,000 published studies supporting this important public health approach. In fact, community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective primary prevention health measure in all of health care.

Yet only 23 percent of Oregonians get fluoride added to their water supply; only Hawaii (11 percent) and New Jersey (14 percent) are lower, according to the British Fluoridation Society. Among the nation’s 50 largest cities, Portland is one of two (Honolulu is the other) holdouts.

posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2013


Water Fluoridation: Frequently Asked Question:
Anti-fluoride activists imply that European countries have rejected fluoridation, but this assertion is misleading because these nations use various means to provide fluoride to their citizens. For example, salt fluoridation is widely used in Europe. In fact, at least 70 million Europeans consume fluoridated salt, and this method of fluoridation reaches most of the population in Germany and Switzerland. These two countries have among the lowest rates of tooth decay in all of Europe.
posted by chrchr at 2:18 PM on May 22, 2013


Western Europe doesn't fluoridate their water, but they fluoridate their salt. That's another misleading argument the anti-fluoride side made a lot of hay with.

Belgium and Denmark, the two countries I particularly mentioned, do not allow fluoridation of salt. And here we are rehashing it anyway. I really should resist.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:19 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


other people are stupid but i am smart

maybe if i tell them this, they will decide to be smart like me!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:25 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the government really cared deeply about dental health of its poorest, it would stop subsidizing sugar and corn (syrup).
posted by small_ruminant at 2:28 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A 2007 report from the state Department of Human Services said 35 percent of Oregon first-through-third graders had untreated dental decay, a higher percentage than in neighboring states with more fluoridation.

Emphasis mine. Flouride is part of the equation, but the untreated part is really the kicker in that stat. Oregon has historically crappy access to dental care for a lot of kids outside of the metro areas, especially in Southern and Eastern Oregon.

I've worked with a dental clinic in Southern Oregon and the only way to get a lot of rural kids to the dentist for a cleaning and a check-up was to bus them from their schools an hour or two to a dental clinic for the day.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let me investigate this further. The two states with less fluoride in their water are Hawaii:

In Hawaii tooth decay among children is 100 percent higher than children on the mainland U.S.

And New Jersey:

A 2010 study from the Pew Research Center shows that New Jersey ranks at the bottom of all the states in dental care for children. Key problems include a lack of use of fluoride and sealants for children, and a low percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children who receive dental care.

* * *

Belgium and Denmark, the two countries I particularly mentioned, do not allow fluoridation of salt.

I'm not finding evidence that Belgium successfully banned these things. In fact, their attempt to do so ran afoul of EU law. Is there any actual evidence that Belgium and Denmark effectively kept out fluoridated salt?

You're not so much rehashing arguments as you are dropping in anti-fluoride talking points and then demurring from engaging when people have counterpoints or other evidence.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:32 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, of course I am doing just that thing. And I should prefer a one-two punch of solid petitio principii on top of not understanding the basic fact of the thread, y'know, like an expert on argumentation does.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2013


Well, touche.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2013


Hand written note on an index card spotted on a MAX train:

Please Check All That Apply
I am [ ] equally ashamed [ ] more ashamed fluoride [ ] has been [ ] will be voted down by a [ ] willfully ignorant [ ] deliberately obtuse minority who spread [ ] outright lies [ ] obsfucated "facts" [ ] logical fallacies in the face of [ ] the vast majority of the medical, scientific, and academic communities [ ] all common sense than if we had [ ] made creationism required teaching in schools [ ] made homosexuality punishable by law because at least then we could [ ] blame religion [ ] blame anti-science zeal.. oh wait..
posted by mediocre at 2:57 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a proponent of fluoridated water, but if Portland doesn't want it that's up to them. I just don't get the emotional investment of some people here who can't accept their decision without resorting to calling them anti-science nutjobs or easily-misled simpletons.
I'm also amused by the quoting of tooth decay rate comparisons that indicate that apparently correlation does imply causation when it suits our needs.
posted by rocket88 at 3:13 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I just don't get the emotional investment of some people here who can't accept their decision without resorting to calling them anti-science nutjobs or easily-misled simpletons. "

Because their reasoning was that of anti-science nutjobs and easily-misled simpletons?

It doesn't take a lot of emotional investment to say that, but a victory for stupid is a loss for smart, and I like smart.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


My hometown finally fluoridated its water after a decades-long battle. Back in the 50s & 60s it was resisted as a communist plot. In the 90s & 00s it was a government plot. I joked that the government must have been taken over by communists.

In any case, the sane city council folks overrode the will of the people and Connersville is now fluoridated.

I was lucky, my mom got a fluoride prescription pill for me from the dentist when I was little. Still never had a cavity.

One memorable moment is that a dude ate an entire tube of toothpaste at a council meeting.
posted by sciurus at 3:30 PM on May 22, 2013


While I'm a fan of fluoridation, I can imagine that your average citizen, who has been lied to repeatedly by their own government for their entire life, is rightfully skeptical.

I'm frankly not seeing the science here, either.

Last time I looked into this, over a decade ago, I concluded that it might be that fluoridation caused a marginal increase in some cancers - but the decreases in the numbers of people who died as an indirect consequence of tooth decay (a surprisingly large number of people because an infected tooth is pretty close to a lot of very delicate and important parts of a human body, but also because losing all your teeth is extremely bad for your life expectancy) were greater than that - and let's not underestimate the tremendous gain that is "not having your teeth fall apart".

> Because their reasoning was that of anti-science nutjobs and easily-misled simpletons?

This attitude is exactly why people don't want fluoridation. It baffles me what you think to gain by doing this.

I applaud people's skeptical attitudes. If they had been that skeptical about the mortgages they were getting in the 00s, or about the Iraq War, we could have avoided a lot of fuckup.

No one seems willing to sit down and politely use science to accurately discuss the advantages and drawbacks of fluoridation, but instead just throw off zingers at the nutjobs.

Let's look at one of TFAs. What are his arguments?

1. You are stupid for using the words you use.
2. All these smart people like fluoride - though I won't actually link to their endorsements.
3. See 1.
4. That Harvard study only said that fluoride was dangerous at a certain level. (What level that is I shan't tell you.)
5. Think of the children!

This guy is definitely a "bad skeptic". Where are the numbers? Where are the links to authoritative studies? Where's the science?

I agree with this guy's conclusions, FFS, but my first knee-jerk reaction is "a snow job", because his arguments are so bad.

Again - if I were in Portland, I'd be voting FOR fluoridation - but only because I personally read through some of the science at some point and decided that given the evidence I had at the time, fluoridation was a clear benefit to public health - not because "bad skeptic" tried to browbeat me into believing I was a dumbass if I didn't take his word for it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:48 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there is a good chance that Bad Skeptic was reacting emotionally to trying to reason with anti-fluoride nutjobs. At least, that's what happened to me. After attempt after attempt after attempt to show that the sources of their "science" are inherently flawed, the "facts" that their side spouts being wild misinterpretations of out-of-context data, and that there is no magical source of money being shoveled at the media by some shadowy pro-fluoride group to further its mysterious goals.. eventually I just started saying 'Fuck you, you are wrong. END OF DISCUSSION."
posted by mediocre at 3:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"But I'm not here to rehash all the arguments -- it's incredibly complex on the science alone, let alone the culture. ... I am merely pointing out that it's complicated."

George, first, thanks for honestly discussing where your coming from in good faith. I'm going to offer, however, that just because the science is complex doesn't mean that it doesn't definitively support fluoride supplementation. Because, in general, the science does support fluoridation.

"solid petitio principii on top of not understanding the basic fact of the thread"


Wait... what?

daq: "the person who was "consulting" the city on adding fluoride to the water system actually worked for the company that would end up with the contract."

This isn't usually conflict of interest. When I think of consultation, I think of advice on how best to render service from someone who will end up providing the service. If I was patient and my doctor asked for a cardiology consultation, usually the consultation will be done by the person who would end up treating me. In civil engineering, consultants might help draft a budget and do feasibility studies.

'Consultation' as to whether or not communities would benefit from water fluoridation has already been provided by the CDC committee packed with dentists. Dentists, who arguably have the most to gain in terms of dollars if the statute failed, tend to support fluoridation to a large degree.

"seem to recall seeing something like 7 being proposed, and that worried me"

The CDC recommends 0.7-1.2 ppm. The CDC recommends communities with water that has natural fluoridation over 2 ppm alert parents of young children that they may be at increased risk if adverse effects of fluorosis, so a proposed level of 7.0 ppm seems extremely unlikely. This old times article states Portland's initial plan contained a proposed level of 0.7 ppm,, which would be on the low end of CDC recommendations.

"what is this going to do to the infrastructure that currently exists in the city?"


That's a little over my head. But I have to ask, do you ask that question about every public works project? When bridges are overhauled do you need to know what effect that's going to have on the dredging requirements of the Columbia River? Usually civil engineers are the ones responsible for assessing those effects...

"does this mean my water bill will go up?"


Well, yes, usually municipalities pay for projects by funds raised from citizens, either through fees or taxes. However, the idea behind public health is programs paid for up front by the city save money down the line by reducing diseases faced by significant portions of the population. We screen for scoliosis in schools because hiring nurses to do the screening only cost pennies for each taxpayer, but catching scoliosis early can save tens of thousands of dollars in corrective surgeries. Same thing for fluoride.

"what if it comes up later that the new fluoridated water damaged my plumbing, because, you know, it wasn't originally designed to handle this"

Again, I'm not an engineer, but I would be shocked if your plumbing would suffer from 0.7 ppm of fluoride. In many communities the ground water contains naturally much higher concentrations of fluoride, with no ill effects to pipes. Also, the vast majority of pipes in America have been handling fluoride for 40 years now. In general, usually the most corrosive molecule in water is the actual water itself.

"I find the whole "fight cavities" argument a little bit hard to swallow,"

"It took a while but I did find this. It indicates that while the ingested fluoride is indeed found in their teeth, it is apparently not in a form that imparts resistance to bacterial acid. "


Again, even though the science is complex, the preponderance of evidence does support fluoridation. Although the theories that explained the mechanism that allows fluoride to reduce cavities have shifted through the last few decades, and is still being refined, the overwhelming evidence suggests that systemic fluoride use does have an effect on the incidence of cavities. The original studies were published in the 1940s so I'm having a hard time finding a definitive benchmark paper online, but the CDC page is here, and contains over 200 citations... so if you're curious, have at it.
posted by midmarch snowman at 3:57 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


And I hadn't read the anti side yet - because even as a skeptic I'd convinced myself it would be garbage.

But I would say that this is a good model for what a rational argument should look like - even if it isn't true. There are actual numbers and graphs - and the two I spot-checked seemed to be mostly accurate (except I hate their idea of drawing a straight line and throwing out the data points). There are copious references to peer-reviewed papers.

Most of his 50 points are specific and actionable. Heck, I had forgotten that one of them impacts me! I "suffer" (very minorly) from dental fluorosis - from too much fluoride from 60s London water and fluoride pills.

A lot of these arguments seem very hard to beat, and the issue has frankly moved more toward the "not proven" camp.

I'd be very interested to see rebuttals of his points.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2013


this argument that nobody drinks much tap water anymore.

whaaaaat?
posted by junco at 4:00 PM on May 22, 2013


Someone over on Ars Technica made a comment on their story about this, to wit: a) the City Council is facing a huge budget short-fall, and we're going to have to cut a whole bunch of services and stuff, including firemen and police. But they were in "backroom" talks to build this fluoridation plant and pass a $5 million dollar bond to pay for it. This is what triggered the ballot measure to begin with, mostly because that's just bad politics to be pushing this massive project while not addressing the other budget issues. That kind of pissed people off, apparently, and a majority of people who voted against the measure did not care about the science of the issue, they were miffed at the inside dealing and bond measure that wasn't really well thought out.

Also, as lupus_yonderboy points out, the PRO arguments all sounded like hogwash received wisdom and a massive snow-job on the part of moneyed interests (or interests that were in line to make a lot of money), namely the company that was going to run the new tax-payer funded facility.

mediocre, not to be too confrontational, but I'm sorry you missed out on being able to discuss this with someone who a) had their facts straight, like properly sources, and not woowoo repeaters. I swear, sometimes talking to the anti-fluoride advocates was like talking to someone who barely understood half the words they were saying.

A lot of this does come down to people being overly emotionally invested in something they don't fully have rationalizations for (at least not rational rationalizations).
posted by daq at 4:01 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


> the overwhelming evidence suggests that systemic fluoride use does have an effect on the incidence of cavities.

From one of TFAs.

11) Benefit is topical not systemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1999, 2001) has now acknowledged that the mechanism of fluoride’s benefits are mainly topical, not systemic. There is no need whatsoever, therefore, to swallow fluoride to protect teeth. Since the purported benefit of fluoride is topical, and the risks are systemic, it makes more sense to deliver the fluoride directly to the tooth in the form of toothpaste. Since swallowing fluoride is unnecessary, and potentially dangerous, there is no justification for forcing people (against their will) to ingest fluoride through their water supply.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:01 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


and that there is no magical source of money being shoveled at the media by some shadowy pro-fluoride group to further its mysterious goals

Maybe not when you put it that way. But one thing I thought really weird is that the pro-fluoridation campaign did in fact donate at least $143,000 (note: old story, not sure what the final number was) to a spectrum of minority groups in return for their endorsement. The NAACP refused it and came out in opposition. Not screaming "shadowy conspiracy" here, but even the NAACP thought it was odd.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who works in water treatment/quality, I must put in my two somewhat ambivalent cents here. We serve 1.3 million customers, ranging from those in deepest poverty all the way up to folks who live in mansions behind 4 gates in thier private fortresses.
Fluoride only helps with the growing teeth of children, and has no effect on adult and fully formed teeth. It seems wrong to dose people with anything they don't really need. However, my experience has been that folks who don't want fluoride have the money, time, organization etc. to make sure thier precious spawn would be treated with fluoride drops (if they believe in *science*, maybe they will even have the kid vaccinated.) The folks who are too busy working 2 or more jobs and are just trying to pay rent and get food for thier family aren't even thinking about it. But who will suffer most in life when the teeth start rotting? I am generally not a big fan of paternalistic decisions made on behalf of others, but, hey, the public voted it in around here back in the 70's and now there is no going back.
posted by k8oglyph at 4:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The folks who are too busy working 2 or more jobs and are just trying to pay rent and get food for thier family aren't even thinking about it.

From TFA:
15) Tooth decay is high in low-income communities that have been fluoridated for years.

Despite some claims to the contrary, water fluoridation cannot prevent the oral health crises that result from rampant poverty, inadequate nutrition, and lack of access to dental care. There have been numerous reports of severe dental crises in low-income neighborhoods of US cities that have been fluoridated for over 20 years (e.g., Boston, Cincinnati, New York City, and Pittsburgh). In addition, research has repeatedly found fluoridation to be ineffective at preventing the most serious oral health problem facing poor children, namely “baby bottle tooth decay,” otherwise known as early childhood caries (Barnes 1992; Shiboski 2003).
My dentist works in a housing project. He's really good, and I like him because he's cheap (he pays nothing for his rent - in exchange he gives free dental care to the people in the housing project), and because he never does unnecessary work. ("Hmm, I'm going to put a watch on this tooth, come in immediately if there's any change or pain." So far all those teeth are undrilled except one.) He saved a tooth that a dentist that cost twice as much gave up on...

He's pro-fluoride, but he's often said that just educating lower income kids to brush their teeth, parents on the role of sugar, and to encourage poor people to see a dentist every few years would have much better results than all the fluoride in the world.

Funny. I never ever thought I'd be arguing against fluoridation! But that article's pretty impressive, and I guess I'm hoping someone has good rebuttals for it...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:09 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had no idea this was such a Thing in North America these days.

Totally anecdotal, and I literally just put two and two together, but I grew up in a small Northern BC town with massively mineralized ground water, unflouridated of course, and then well water at the house we lived in during my teenage years.

I have fillings in about 6 of my molars from that time. I moved to Vancouver for university when I was 18, and now, 30 years later, I have literally had not one single cavity since.

It actually makes me wonder -- I know correlation ain't causation and all that, but it just occurred to me to wonder if there's any connection.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2013


But from badskeptic on that same issue:

> I think about all the people I’ve seen sipping organic lattes at the local coffee shop cracking jokes about fluoridation, and reasoning that we should just, “Give the poor people toothpaste. Educate them. Teach them how to use a toothbrush.” (Yes. I actually did hear a guy say that.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2013


OK, I'm off - I need to do some actual work here. Please don't interpret what I'm saying as advising people to vote against fluoride! My mind has changed somewhat doing research for this, but at best I'd call myself now "on the fence".

I'd be very interested to see some rebuttals of that "pro" link from the top of the page...! (And no snark intended - I really am very interested...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:16 PM on May 22, 2013


I'm just annoyed that nobody has called my position on tap water eponysterical.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:16 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


midmarch snowman:

First, thank you for responding.
This isn't usually conflict of interest. When I think of consultation, I think of advice on how best to render service from someone who will end up providing the service. If I was patient and my doctor asked for a cardiology consultation, usually the consultation will be done by the person who would end up treating me. In civil engineering, consultants might help draft a budget and do feasibility studies.

'Consultation' as to whether or not communities would benefit from water fluoridation has already been provided by the CDC committee packed with dentists. Dentists, who arguably have the most to gain in terms of dollars if the statute failed, tend to support fluoridation to a large degree.


While I agree that you can tend to be limited to who you consult with and who ends up doing the work, the main issue that I've seen brought up about this was that the results and data from those consultations were not public, and that the oversight for this project was kind of badly handled by the city. Mind you, I'm not saying there is a "right" way to do this, but it had a stink on it that initially got peoples attention.

The CDC recommends 0.7-1.2 ppm. The CDC recommends communities with water that has natural fluoridation over 2 ppm alert parents of young children that they may be at increased risk if adverse effects of fluorosis, so a proposed level of 7.0 ppm seems extremely unlikely. This old times article states Portland's initial plan contained a proposed level of 0.7 ppm,, which would be on the low end of CDC recommendations.

Again, the data made public before all of this was all over the place. Sadly, I blame both sides for not making this easier to make plain to the public.

That's a little over my head. But I have to ask, do you ask that question about every public works project? When bridges are overhauled do you need to know what effect that's going to have on the dredging requirements of the Columbia River? Usually civil engineers are the ones responsible for assessing those effects...

I'm one of those weirdos who likes to know how things work, and I have a big "thing" in my brain about understanding consequences of actions. Your question about the bridges and the Columbia River are amusing, mostly because I've read up quite a bit about the proposed bridge upgrades and alternative proposals put forth by other groups, and yes, the dredging requirements were actually part of several alternative plans. While dredging isn't my primary interest, knowing how they might change is something that I hope the planners would consider, rather than allowing the externalites fall into someone elses lap. That's a surefire way for a city to get sued.

Well, yes, usually municipalities pay for projects by funds raised from citizens, either through fees or taxes. However, the idea behind public health is programs paid for up front by the city save money down the line by reducing diseases faced by significant portions of the population. We screen for scoliosis in schools because hiring nurses to do the screening only cost pennies for each taxpayer, but catching scoliosis early can save tens of thousands of dollars in corrective surgeries. Same thing for fluoride.

See my above post about the $5 million dollar bond measure and how poorly that was handled, at least politically.

Again, I'm not an engineer, but I would be shocked if your plumbing would suffer from 0.7 ppm of fluoride. In many communities the ground water contains naturally much higher concentrations of fluoride, with no ill effects to pipes. Also, the vast majority of pipes in America have been handling fluoride for 40 years now. In general, usually the most corrosive molecule in water is the actual water itself.

Some of the pipes in Portland date back to the 1900's. As in like 1905 and stuff. Also, the public fountains, etc, etc. I'm not saying that something would happen, I'm just asking, did anyone bother to check? I can understand that you aren't an Engineer, but for the life of me, I can't find enough information on it to feel like I can answer that question, even partially.


Another point: what effects on ground water does fluoridation have? Like, I know some of the best antibiotics are Fluorine based. Does increasing the fluoride in the drinking water (and thus, the run-off into the sewers, and further down the line, the rivers and lakes) cause any changes? Has that even been studied? I know they've studied water runoff with birth control pills and anti-depressants.
posted by daq at 4:18 PM on May 22, 2013


lupus, yeah, I was trying to type that up quickly and bungled some of my responses, specifically I interchanged Drinking Water Fluoridation with Systemic Fluoride Supplementation, which was an error. In my five minute database search now I can't find good support of systemic, but for some reason its maybe still done? But yeah, drinking water fluoridation has many of the same effects as topical fluoridation.
posted by midmarch snowman at 4:18 PM on May 22, 2013


A 2002 study concluded that water fluoridation is “the most effective and practical method” for reducing the gap in decay rates between low-income and upper-income Americans. The study concluded, “There is no practical alternative to water fluoridation for reducing these disparities in the United States.”

Fluoridation isn't going to eliminate dental caries caused by poor nutrition and lack of access to dental care. But I am not convinced the quote above offers any evidence that it is useless.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:20 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came here for Dr. Strangelove, and was not disappointed!
posted by booksarelame at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2013


So wait, was flouride communist conspiracy really a thing in the 50's? I thought they were just trying to make Base Cmdr. Ripper sound as absolutely crazy as possible.
posted by mcrandello at 4:24 PM on May 22, 2013




Bunny U: That is an awesome clip. The mental hygiene bit is amazing. ("Subtle and diabolical plan of the enemy.... horde of zombies." Brilliant!)
posted by booksarelame at 4:32 PM on May 22, 2013



Give the poor people toothpaste. Educate them. Teach them how to use a toothbrush.


I saw and heard a lot of this kind of talk from people opposed to fluoridation. "We should just have comprehensive dental care for all children!" No shit. Now how do we do that? How do you propose to achieve that and get it written into law? Oh, you mean you don't actually have a plan to improve access to dental care for impoverished children, but you're going to vote down something that will help and is cheap? There was a lot of talk about personal responsibility coming from liberals too. It's really disappointing.
posted by chrchr at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another point: what effects on ground water does fluoridation have? Like, I know some of the best antibiotics are Fluorine based. Does increasing the fluoride in the drinking water (and thus, the run-off into the sewers, and further down the line, the rivers and lakes) cause any changes? Has that even been studied? I know they've studied water runoff with birth control pills and anti-depressants.

I do know that there are concerns about salmon stocks. Most of the problems they've observed are with industrial fluoride waste discharge rather than municipal fluoridation wastewater, so there is a question of what concentration is significant, but more study is indicated.

Noted without endorsement. (This aspect didn't significantly influence my vote. The fact that it ends with questions and then urgently calls for sunsetting fluoridation programs strikes me as a bit unscientific. So don't you go calling me biased, hmmkay?)
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:43 PM on May 22, 2013


"This attitude is exactly why people don't want fluoridation. It baffles me what you think to gain by doing this."

Well, no, they don't want fluoridation because they're a bunch of woo-chugging yobbos, and I'm not particularly worried about offending them — they already voted, and clearly aren't convinced by rational arguments. Contempt seems fair.

I applaud people's skeptical attitudes. If they had been that skeptical about the mortgages they were getting in the 00s, or about the Iraq War, we could have avoided a lot of fuckup.

That's not what skepticism means, and you're conflating it. This is closer to being "skeptical" about evolution because eyes are so complex, man.

No one seems willing to sit down and politely use science to accurately discuss the advantages and drawbacks of fluoridation, but instead just throw off zingers at the nutjobs."

Sorry, my politely using science time is taken up by gay rights today.

Funny. I never ever thought I'd be arguing against fluoridation! But that article's pretty impressive, and I guess I'm hoping someone has good rebuttals for it...?"

It's more long than it is right, and that people aren't willing to invest in fisking it is reasonable. Especially since it involves doing things like pointing out that the 'graph you quoted doesn't disprove the contention that fluoridation is a benefit for low-income people. That low income people have substantial structural impediments to dental health is not a justification for not using a tool that will ameliorate that. That's specious logic, like saying that because brushing teeth makes a bigger difference, we shouldn't bother educating people to avoid overloading their mouths with acidic/sugary foods.

Pointing that out again and again to someone already defensive about their woo is just as profitable as writing them off as a dolt, given the medium here.
posted by klangklangston at 4:49 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


you can get un-iodized salt way more easily than you can get un-fluoridated water

Pretty sure you can buy bottled spring water anyplace where you can buy un-iodized salt.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:56 PM on May 22, 2013


Pro-fluoriders have their own rock-band supporters. Among them, apparently, is Colin Meloy, member of Portland's revered alternative band, The Decemberists. "How can you hate on the GOP for being creationist science deniers and then go on about how vaccines and fluoridation are poison," reads a January post on his Twitter account, which is linked from the website colinmeloy.com. In April, the account tweeted disdain for the anti-fluoride documentary, "An Inconvenient Tooth."

I thought I couldn't love The Decemberists more than I did.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:57 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Info on how other countries have debated this issue here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoridation_by_country . That's as good of a jumping off point as any for the rights-based argument if you really want to click around.

There are Australian anti-flouride people; I hope they're not winning.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:59 PM on May 22, 2013


All the WSJ articles read like parody, or an attempt at a Portlandia/Look At This Fucking Hipster tone.

How did woo get so popular on the left?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:05 PM on May 22, 2013


Culture wars are fun and all, but given that every human in the U.S. is exposed to an unpredictable continuous dose of this substance, and that the National Kidney Foundation has questioned the practice, and that Health and Human Services has recently lowered the recommended dosage, and that NIH considers fluoride toothpaste toxic in large amounts, and the CDC warns against excessive lifetime consumption causing skeletal fluorosis, I don't think it's out of line asking this question every once in a while.

Saying that "the emerging science shows a reasonable amount of concern" sounds like a reasonable statement, and does not sound like "woo".
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:13 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


All the WSJ articles read like parody, or an attempt at a Portlandia/Look At This Fucking Hipster tone.

It's an "A-Hed" article. What Is an A-Hed?
posted by BobbyVan at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2013


I have terrible teeth. This has cost me in pain, money, and vanity.

I told my dentist:
"I inherited my bad teeth from my father." (My father had terrible teeth.)
My dentist just said:
"Did you grow up in the country?" (Rural well water.)

My older sibling has worse teeth than I do.
My younger siblings used new fluoridated toothpaste when they were young.
posted by ovvl at 5:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do low-income children drink less tap water than they did... uh... at some other time?

In my somewhat limited experience, almost all low-income kids, and quite a few middle-class kids as well, get started on the juice box (or juice in a bottle) approximately ten seconds after birth. They carry them EVERYWHERE, bathing their teeth with a constant flow of sugar water (please don't try to tell me there's "juice" in there, or that the effects would be better if there were). When they get a little older they graduate to carrying around 64-ounce bottles of Gatorade -- hey, it's a Sports Drink, it's like a workout in a jar!

My theory is that more than just their teeth are affected by this.

No one, but no one, except me, actually drinks water out of the tap anymore. When I do it at work, people look at me like I'm drinking motor oil.
posted by Fnarf at 5:39 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: That flyer is absolutely incredible. Although I think "An Inconvenient Tooth" has to be about the most amazing thing I saw in this whole discussion just for the unintended irony.
posted by mcrandello at 5:44 PM on May 22, 2013


and that the National Kidney Foundation has questioned the practice

The National Kidney Foundation has not issued specific recommendations regarding fluoride intake and kidney disease due to the limited available research on the topic.

They go on to list the benefits and potential risks.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:45 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]




Yes. They neither support it nor oppose it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:02 PM on May 22, 2013


(Oops, that last link was to a PRNewswire article, so make of it what you will -- changing position from yes to maybe is still a significant comment for a public organization like the NKF -- but I can't find evidence they ever supported it so NEVERMIND)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:03 PM on May 22, 2013


Debate to the core issues and core values, even if your most vocal opponents are poorly explaining those core values. Drill down until you understand the opposition instead of stereotyping away their concerns. And maybe try not to stoop to ad hominem attacks like every other comment in this thread is stooping to. And for crying out loud, don't try to heavy handedly push things through without community debate like city council attempted.

Portland, Oregon is a celebrated city for its quality of life. Activists on both sides of the fluoride debate are often on the same side for other quality of life debates. Activism from the Mt. Hood Expressway to the urban growth boundary to public waterways is the reason Portland, Oregon is the celebrated city that it is. 60% of the population is not woowoo, anti-science imbeciles. Just stop it. Shut up about that. Even if it's true, it would get your argument nowhere.

The Colbert tweet is kind of a good reminder about why exactly having a pro-government political movement centered on snark is bound to fail. Colbert and Stewart ain't gonna save us. Snarking hasn't helped convince anti-science gun nuts who overlook the glaring public health consensus on gun control, either.

"Unfortunately the bullshit thinking carried the day. Voting against fluoridation is a perfect example of why there should not have direct participatory democracy. Because people, en masse, are often ignorant and illogical."

Yikes. Or maybe people are alright and democracy is hard but worth it? Our representative democracy in Congress is not doing much better. Or are you against representation in all forms?

Portland Public Schools is still providing fluoride tablets. Want to continue the anti-poverty, pro-health fight? Let's talk school attendence, then? Is that problem so intractable that our breath is better wasted on rehashing the fluoride debate again and again and again? There were several call-outs looking for a solution to please both sides, so here you go.

That's what frustrated me about this FPP. The vote is over, there are other ways to move forward, but the country would rather rubberneck and make Portlandia and precious bodily fluid jokes.
posted by Skwirl at 6:17 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


60% of the population is not woowoo, anti-science imbeciles.

While I agree it is bad form to treat them as such, in fact, at least 43 percent of the population is woowoo, anti-science imbeciles. I think you throw in a few died-in-the-wool, anti-big-government libertarians and a few full-blown government's-out-to-get-us paranoiacs you easily reach 60 percent.

I guess my question here is the same as it would be in addressing people who believe vaccines cause autism: What effective conversation about science can I have with people who reject science?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:24 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Portland, Oregon is a celebrated city for its quality of life. Activists on both sides of the fluoride debate are often on the same side for other quality of life debates. Activism from the Mt. Hood Expressway to the urban growth boundary to public waterways is the reason Portland, Oregon is the celebrated city that it is. 60% of the population is not woowoo, anti-science imbeciles.

The people I know who are like the Portland locals are, mostly, woowoo anti-science types.

Yikes. Or maybe people are alright and democracy is hard but worth it? Our representative democracy in Congress is not doing much better. Or are you against representation in all forms?

I think that in many cases people are too dumb to be trusted to make important decisions. Our government is considering not letting kids who aren't vaccinated go to certain childcare centres. I'm happy about that. People often need to be protected from their own stupidity.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:27 PM on May 22, 2013


> Fluoride only helps with the growing teeth of children, and has no effect on adult and fully formed teeth

"...exposure to CWF [community water fluoridation] in adulthood may further improve oral health by providing continued protection of tooth enamel throughout life."

"Simply by drinking water, children and adults can benefit from fluoridation's cavity protection...."

"...fluoride in drinking water provides dental health benefits to adults, even those who had not received fluoridated drinking water as children..."
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"60% of the population is not woowoo, anti-science imbeciles. Just stop it. Shut up about that. Even if it's true, it would get your argument nowhere."

No, I doubt turnout was anywhere near 100 percent. About 60 percent of those who voted have demonstrated that they lack sufficient critical thinking skills to vote on this issue, and are willing to remove a tool for making poor kids' lives better because of whatever privileged nonsense they ascribe to.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


* While I agree it is bad form to treat them as such, in fact, at least 43 percent of the population is woowoo, anti-science imbeciles. I think you throw in a few died-in-the-wool, anti-big-government libertarians and a few full-blown government's-out-to-get-us paranoiacs you easily reach 60 percent.

* No, I doubt turnout was anywhere near 100 percent. About 60 percent of those who voted have demonstrated that they lack sufficient critical thinking skills to vote on this issue, and are willing to remove a tool for making poor kids' lives better because of whatever privileged nonsense they ascribe to.

Incredible defeatism in those statements.
posted by Skwirl at 7:39 PM on May 22, 2013


I think that in many cases people are too dumb to be trusted to make important decisions.

this is a toxic mentality that runs counter to the libertarian ideas of "consent" and personal autonomy
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:14 PM on May 22, 2013


this is a toxic mentality that runs counter to the libertarian ideas of "consent" and personal autonomy

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:19 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


that sounds good until you start looking at what it meant for the people who had to live with it
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:25 PM on May 22, 2013


this is a toxic mentality that runs counter to the libertarian ideas of "consent" and personal autonomy

Alternatively, it is the recognition that reality often encounters libertarian ideals and supersedes them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:25 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


i'm just saying, a lot of people think consent is important
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:30 PM on May 22, 2013


PJ O'Rourke: How Fluoridated Water Turns Kids Into Communisits
posted by robcorr at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2013



that sounds good until you start looking at what it meant for the people who had to live with it


Like the kids who get sick because other kids weren't vaccinated, or the millions who starve because governments ban GM food?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2013


Why didn't you consent? -- Oh, because I think consent is important.

Once again, this is not an explanation, this is a rationalization.
posted by leopard at 8:35 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


@leopard

i'm not trying to tell you who's right, i'm just saying that here is a convergent boundary where two philosophies collide

this is important because it has wider implications e.g. the calls to deregulate GM food etc.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:44 PM on May 22, 2013


this is important because it has wider implications e.g. the calls to deregulate GM food etc.

what's wrong with that? GM food is another example. People's hysteria will always get in the way of good science, so we either need to not tell people food is GM food or pass laws preventing protests from gaining any traction. Otherwise humanity as a whole will go backwards.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2013


we either need to not tell people food is GM food or pass laws preventing protests from gaining any traction.
so there you have it
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:53 PM on May 22, 2013


Here's an alternate theory. Ignorant people were scared about "chemicals" being dumped into the water supply and decided to stick with the status quo.

Chris Christie is running ads for the governor's race in NJ. Interestingly he isn't make some profound appeal about core values and the foundations of government. Instead he runs 30-second spots associating his opponent with tax increases and unemployment, tossing out lots of numbers without much context.

Silly Christie. But I'm sure he'll learn his "lesson" soon.
posted by leopard at 8:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm entirely pro-fluoride in the drinking water. But I have to now agree that once "my side" starts tossing boot-stamping-on-a-human-face-forever type platitudes, I do sort of want to vote against whatever it is they are advocating.
posted by booksarelame at 9:28 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


or the millions who starve because governments ban GM food?

No one is starving because governments ban GM food. There is a worldwide food surplus. Current famines are due to inequitable distribution.
posted by junco at 9:42 PM on May 22, 2013


My sister (Portland resident) PWNed an anti-fluoride rant on Facebook today. She can fucking write:

"Let's start with the links you posted. I happen to have read through the entire NAS report, so I know that it was charged with determining the negative effects of fluoride and NOT the positive effects. I also know that it determined that fluoride in excess of 4mg/liter is detrimental to our health. Uh, so? Portland wants to dose the water at .7 ppm, or about 1mg/liter. That's less: as in, 1/4 less than the tipping point for possible fluorosis. The NAS recommended the EPA lower its safe levels--which it has, just this year. That second link to the CDC says the exact same thing: fluoride is toxic at high levels. So is chlorine, and the 2000 other chemicals in your drinking water. As for the ADA, it's true they haven't changed their determination that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay; but they recommend the same safe levels the CDC does: .7 to 1.2."

"I read the JAMA paper. Interesting. I found many more studies that were unable to replicate the results in other fluoridated areas. Is that enough to hang your anti-health care for children hat on? Against the overwhelming evidence of fluoride benefits documented and published in those same journals you cite? Hmm."

"Ah Europe! Nations of complicated infrastructure, most of which are unsuitable for water fluoridation. But in no European country is fluoride "banned," although many oppose it. Most (and the EU) recognize the value of fluoride and so they fluoridate salt, milk, and enact the number one most effective public health measure: socialized medicine. Hey, poor kids can go to the dentist whenever they want to.....where they receive fluoride treatments. Many areas in Europe have naturally fluoridated water...something Portland does not. The Anti-fluoride groups have created a long list of quotes from world leaders who supposedly oppose fluoridation. Most are taken out of context--shameful--and are pieces of larger statements explaining that fluoridated water is too inefficient a method (because of the infrastructure) and that there are better ways to fluoridate the population (such as universal dental care), or that the government does not put TOXIC levels in the water (just non-toxic), and so on. I've seen this Europe thing all over, the same statement, the same list of world leaders, as if by posting it all over the place creates some sort of consensus. Do you know who supports fluoridation? ADA, AMA, APA, CDC, USPHS, ADI, AGD, AAP, AAPD, ACS, ACSH, ACNS, NRC, WHO, BMA, CPS, and hundreds of municipal governments, to name a few. That's what a motherf*cking consensus looks like."

"For the record, the two sides are only recently entrenched. For a long time, the only anti-people were tin-hat wearing communist-haters who were laughed out of the room while every major city got to work fluoridating their water. This conflict is fairly new (but is still, I would argue, manufactured by anti-government extremists. It's certainly still financed by them). So here's what I think is going on here, since I've been thinking very hard why my fellow lefties are abandoning science and medicine and embracing the legacy of the John Birch Society: It's classism in the guise of benevolence. The Right's arguments can be summed up as: government is bad, communism is bad, poor people are bad. The left takes a different approach, but the results are the same. "Chemical" sounds bad and people we trust--like our yoga instructor and organic produce handler--are freaking out, and there are all these sites that list actual experts warning us, and plus, toothpaste! Use toothpaste! Why risk those 5 old people who might break a hip when we have toothpaste? So, those lefties don't need fluoride: they eat organic apples, and brush, and go to the dentist. They say: "Here, poor people, do what I do and you'll be fine. My gift to you is my very good advice. Hasn't anyone told you to brush?" It's all bullshit, of course, because poor people don't have the same choices we do. They don't. To assume so is condescending and ignorant. We pretend like an anti vote is a vote for humanity. But it's not, it's selfish. Why aren't we waving signs against chlorine, even though chlorine in toxic levels will kill, kill, kill you? Is it because chlorine keeps ALL of us safe? We all need chlorine, rich, poor, young, old, and so THAT chemical is okey-doke. I see too much intellectual dishonesty in the anti argument to respect it. But get me some socialized medicine in the U.S.A. and I'll drop the fluoride thing. (Here's an article from Scientific American--that rogue journal: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/overthinking-it/2013/05/22/why-portland-is-wrong-about-water-fluoridation/)"
posted by Brocktoon at 9:50 PM on May 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


oh ice burn
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 PM on May 22, 2013


Buy that lady an account.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The anti-fluoridation radio spots are something to be heard.

Link?

Just short of precious bodily fluids.

Link!
posted by homunculus at 12:48 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


now if only PWNing people made them more likely to listen to you and not fight you
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:13 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


i'm just saying, a lot of people think consent is important

People don't get individual vetos over laws and regulations. Basically this is democracy working and if they want bad teeth in Portland, that's their right. I never drink tap water anyway. Not because I think it's dirty or anything, I just don't drink a lot of water.
posted by empath at 4:21 AM on May 23, 2013


It is a shame that there many unscientific arguments presented to oppose fluoridation of town water, because most of these arguments are unnecessary. Protection from cavities comes from flouride applied to the tooth surface not from ingesting it. Care about poor kids and their teeth? Support free dental services in poor schools.
posted by vicx at 5:01 AM on May 23, 2013


Ok I'll bite
What do you want to know?

I still think these people are like a child constantly asking "but Why?" and aren't doing anything remotely useful. When I have my own children and can affect their knowledge and understanding I shall have more patience, but the internet is essentially just an unending series of idiots rehashing the same arguments like they are new.

Incredible defeatism in those statements.

Yet still true.
posted by koolkat at 5:25 AM on May 23, 2013


> Well, no, they don't want fluoridation because they're a bunch of woo-chugging yobbos,

"I'll be as rude as possible to people who disagree with me. That'll convince them!"

> That's not what skepticism means, and you're conflating it. This is closer to being "skeptical" about evolution because eyes are so complex, man.

"Skepticism or scepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere."

> Sorry, my politely using science time is taken up by gay rights today.

So why are you here then? Honestly, what do you expect to gain by just being impolite and not presenting any actual arguments? If you don't have the time, wouldn't it be better to say nothing at all rather than mock people whom you perceive as your opponents? Do you honestly think that mocking the people you perceive as opponents is going to do anything other than firm up their resolve to oppose your claims?

Again - I come from a science background. I came here as a solid supporter of fluoridation. I leave as someone who is no longer willing to be associated with the pro-fluoride side, simply due to the unpleasant level of discourse (even though, if I were in Portland, I would probably still vote pro.) If your aim is to get people on board with fluoridation, you've had exactly the reverse effect.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This, of course, alludes to you: "now if only PWNing people made them more likely to listen to you and not fight you"

Reasoning with them for decades using logic and science has not convinced them.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:33 AM on May 23, 2013




I think "First, don't be a dick" isn't too much to ask in a metafilter thread.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:00 AM on May 23, 2013


[please consider whether saying "doing this makes you a selfish asshole" is really true to the "talk about the behavior not the person" guideline. Recomment and try harder, this is getting out of hand. ]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:01 AM on May 23, 2013


Sorry, honestly privileging a tone argument over the health of poor kids seems pretty reprehensible to me.
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, where I live this kind of thinking gets a lot of traction. This area attracts people who want to live off the grid in varying degrees, people who want to get away from people in general or who are misfits (myself included on both counts), and artists since over a century ago when the original art colony was established in Taos. There's a lot of colorful characters here, and I love them and the fact that there's a place for all us weirdos here, but there's also a lot of magical thinking and obvious untreated mental illness. There's an undeniable paranoid streak behind a lot of the anti-fluoride thinking, mistrustful of any type of authority (science, society, government) with a conviction that they are being singled out or victimized at every turn, which is similar to a lot of the other beliefs that seem to find a place within these groups. You meet a lot of people here who are liberal or conservative, but who do not vote for major parties (except Ron Paul), if they vote at all. Conspiracy theories are treated as more credible than anything a politician says.

And I get how easy it is to believe these ideas, because I was prone to that for several years. So I empathize and know that most people are doing the best they can and aren't bad people for their beliefs, although where I draw the line is when those beliefs are enacted into policy or law. What helped me become grounded in reality again was to quit drinking, work through my clinical depression and get treatment for ADHD and PTSD. Before having done that kind of work on myself, any information which contradicted my paranoid, conspiratorial world view was rejected outright, no matter how scientific or logical. To some people who are still stuck there, I am part of the problem and have been brainwashed. I'm not claiming everyone who voted against fluoridation has these kinds of issues, but in my experience the people who are the driving force behind these types of political actions, whether it's the Birchers or the new generation of the liberal fringe, are not working from a position of sanity.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:45 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife was complaining that one of her back teeth will have to be crowned. She had a vicious cavity as a child that ended with the dentist putting in a filling that lasted her for 30 years. She grew up in a rural part of the South with unfluoridated water (the local government would add it when she was older) and her parents gave her fluoride tablets.

"I just can't believe I have to go through this. I'm fortysomething and my teeth need all this work."
"Well, heredity can be involved. What were your parents' teeth like at your age?"
"They didn't have any. They had dentures when they were 40."

It's amazing how much science and medicine have improved in the last 100 years -- to the point that we now take for granted and sometimes fight against things that have worked so well in the past in the name of it not being something that ever happens anymore. Fluoride (in toothpaste and drinking water) has reduced tooth decay so much we now can't comprehend a world where people have dentures at 40.
posted by dw at 9:30 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


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