Fluoridation debate continues across the country

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health and the author of “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.” She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Is there a fluoride debate in your future?

Public health advocates hailed the 5-0 vote by the Portland, Ore., city council on Sept. 12 approving the fluoridation of the city’s water supply. Fluoride opponents jeered and swore they would fight on.

Until the vote, Portland had been the largest U.S. city that had a non-fluoridated water system. The story was all over the evening news.

Here is how NPR’s Kristian Foden-Vencil handled the decision, in a piece that came out of a reporting partnership that included NPR, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Kaiser Health News.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

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He spoke with Kim Kaminski, of Clean Water Portland, a group which is battling the introduction of fluoride in Portland’s water.

“She cited studies to support her cause,” Foden-Vencil reported. “Perhaps the most worrisome was a 2006 Harvard study. A key finding:

“For males less than 20 years old, fluoride levels in drinking water during growth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma.”

“Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer.”

But he also sought out Dr. Catherine Hayes of Health Resources in Action, an adviser to the 2006 study and co-author of a follow-up study and deconstructed the finding.

Hayes told Foden-Vencil that in the second study, “the researchers looked at samples of bone from people who had the cancer – instead of just gathering information about previous cases of the disease, as the first study had done,” Foden-Vencil reported. The researchers concluded there was no link between osteosarcoma and fluoride.

“There was no difference in the amount of fluoride in the bone,” Hayes said. “That’s really significant, because now we’re not estimating fluoride intake, we’re really measuring it.”

There is sure to be another story. Fluoride opponents have pledged to gather enough signatures to place the issue on a future election ballot.

There are stories to be written elsewhere. Phoenix, Ariz., just voted to continue fluoridating its water. Fluoridation will be put to a public vote on Nov. 6 in Wichita, Kan. In Missouri, St. Louis and St. Charles have reduced the amount of fluoride added to the city’s water supply. In Canada, the town of Red Deer, Alberta, “will decide next month whether to reduce, increase or eliminate fluoride in drinking water.” Officials in Santa Fe, N.M., are considering putting the fluoridation issue to a vote.

Are communities you cover considering fluoridation or perhaps reducing or eliminating fluoride from the water supply?

One thought on “Fluoridation debate continues across the country

  1. jwillie6

    Fluoridation is a Waste of Tax Money.

    As a Civil Engineer, I know that people drink only 1/2% (one-half percent) of the water they use. The remaining 99 ½ % of the water with this toxic industrial waste fluoride chemical (Hexafluorosilicic acid) is dumped directly into the environment through the sewer system. The company CEO would be arrested immediately if they dumped their toxic waste fluoride into a river. The only way they can do it legally is to run it through the community drinking water system first. It is an absolutely insane condition.

    For example, for every $1000 of fluoride chemical added to water, $995 would be directly wasted down the drain in toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc., $5 would be consumed in water by the people, and less than $0.50 (fifty cents) would be consumed by children, the target group for this outdated practice. Your water department can confirm these numbers.

    That would be comparable to buying one gallon of milk, using six-and-one-half drops of it, and pouring the rest of the gallon in the sink.

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