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“We shall drink only distilled water or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol, and maybe Black Butte Porter.”

[ 208 ] May 22, 2013 |

Portland, I love you, but you’re bringing me down:

Late last night, Portlanders rejected a plan to fluoridate their city’s water supply (and the water of over a dozen other cities). It’s the fourth time Portland has rejected the public health measure since 1956. It’s the fourth time they’ve gotten the science wrong.

When new medical treatments are implemented, when new drugs are introduced into the populace, there is always some hesitation. There are (hopefully) some clinical trials to back up the new intervention, but the long-term implications are often unclear. Water fluoridation doesn’t have this problem. For over 65 years, it has been rigorously tested as a public health measure, and considered one of the most successful measures of the last 100 years, alongside others like recognizing that tobacco use is a health hazard.

Simply put, the refusal of water fluoridation doesn’t have any scientific support. A review on fluoride’s effect on IQ out of Harvard was waved about as the main scientific opposition, but has since been thoroughly refuted. Decades of studies in different cities in different states, involving millions of people, have concluded that there is a safe level of fluoride—one part-per-million—that can be added to water for enormous benefit to our teeth and oral health with little to no adverse effects.

Does anybody understand the politics of this?


Comments (208)

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  1. Philip says:

    Hypothesis: these are the same people who won’t get their kids vaccinated, with the same “it’s not natural” politics of an obnoxious subset of American liberals.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I was just about to make this exact same comment. I would love to see some research on this.

    • Agreed. It’s the fetishization of nature as good, and a rather crude anti-corporation attitude without a real class analysis attached.

      Incidentally, Robert D. Johnson’s chapter on Portland anti-vaccinationists is really good on this, even if you don’t grant his major thesis.

    • wjts says:

      That’s certainly my impression. At the linked page, there’s a poster (credited to Alex Jones’ Infowars website) claiming that “Fluoride is a dangerous substance and the active ingredient in most insecticides”. It’s a chemical, and everybody knows chemicals are not things you want in your water.

    • RodeoBob says:

      I’d argue it’s actually the intersection of the liberal “purity taboo” (anti-vaccination, organic produce, etc.) and the conservative anti-government vibe. (“vote down the nanny state!”)

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        the liberal “purity taboo”

        Is there anything particularly ‘liberal’ about a preoccupation with Purity of Essence, Purity of the Bloodline, etc.?

        • CD says:

          The purity obsession seems like a para-religion that crosses all kinds of other lines.

          To take a non-health example, If you look at DIY audio catalogs you’ll see folks doing good business selling 99.9999% pure copper or silver wire to loons who build interconnects out of it, convinced this will get them better sound. I don’t think said loons are particularly ideological one way or another. They’re just people who understand science through a haze of bad metaphors.

        • ajay says:

          Other things we should add to the water:

          1945-1970. Average US GDP growth: 3.4%.
          1970. Amphetamines criminalised.
          1970-present day. Average US GDP growth: 2.3%.

          I’m just saying. Maybe the Freak Brothers had the right idea; maybe the Feds should be out there dumping tanker trucks full of dexedrine into the reservoirs.

      • a noter of such things says:

        I think it’s rather a novel conception and valorization of “health” (see: whole foods, paleo diet, etc) that’s exploded in the last decade or two and that is sometimes correlated with some kinds of liberalism rather than “purity” per se.

    • FMguru says:

      Yep. It’s the point where crunchy-granola hippie antivaxers and black-helicopter militia nuts cross over, and Portland seems to have a critical population of both.

      Here’s a fine article in the Guardian from an antivaxer, pondering that maybe (just maybe) she made a mistake in not getting her daughter immunized when she came down with a severe case of pertussis.

    • Another Anonymous says:

      They moved to Portland *so* they could live in a nutty community.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        See, I think this is the stereotype but that it does not take into account the largest group of people who voted against, who are people who grew up here, are not far-out on other political issues, but just are used to things the way they are and know we have wonderful water, which we actually do. The young creatives who come here from the East coast or Cali are not the be all and end all of Portland.

    • efgoldman says:

      When I was a kid, in the late 50s and early 60s, the resistance was almost entirely to fluoridation as a commie plot. No, I’m neither misremembering nor making it up.

      • Linnaeus says:

        No, you’re not. When I was doing research for my MA thesis, I came upon a few right-wing sources that made that claim. National Review took a softer stance: it wasn’t a communist plot, but it was involuntary medication.

        • herr doktor bimler says:

          Most of anti-fluoridation mythology started in the 50s with the John Birch Society bullshitting about fluorine salts having been added to the water supply in *Soviet* concentration camps. About the same time, some other liar invented a story that German inustrialists had been *stockpiling* fluorides and had been planning to use them to control the subjugated populations after WW-II.
          Then a bit later the two stories merged and morphed because someone thought “Oh, Nazis are even more evil than Soviets! *They* should be in the story!”

          Presumably the earlier versions had specified Soviet camps because the John Birch tradition regarded communists as far scarier than Nazis.

          Kids today with their chemtrails and Morgellons don’t realise how hard it was for a crank in the old days.

      • les says:

        I’m becoming convinced, given political trends and voting patterns, that the resistance was right–we’ve become a nation too stupid to govern itself. The commies just didn’t last long enough to reap the benefits.

        • Rattus Norvegicus says:

          Well the wingers have been fighting public education for at least 30 years. That give us a whole generation of nincompoops.

          We are doomed.

  2. Linnaeus says:

    Seattle has had fluoridated water since 1970, so of course Portland had to make sure not to fluoridate its water.

    • Jay B. says:

      I’d love to see some comparative dental data from each city. I know that fluoride has been a huge public health success, but I know some anti-fluoride types and they simply think it’s all a kind of conspiracy and the big commie-mindcontrol conspiracy was just cover for the smaller one. Of something.

    • calling all toasters says:

      Well, sure. Fluoridate your water and 38 years later your NBA team will leave.* And Portland loves them Blazers.

      *applicable only in the Pacific Northwest.

  3. Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    Does anybody understand the politics of this?

    Keep Portland Weird is more than just a catchy slogan, apparently.

  4. Ryan says:

    It is mostly the “it’s not natural” crowd. The anti-F movement was called Clean Water Portland, or some such, and all the signs said “NO to fluoridation chemicals” (meaning… fluoride?). People would say things about how it was a neurotoxin, or how many people have sensitivities to it, etc.

    The other, slightly smaller, reason was our perverse libertarian streak. A lot of people argued against being “forced” to take fluoride, or went on about “medicating” the entire populous against their will. Like many libertarian arguments, I’m sympathetic from a very abstract view, but when you boil it down to the actual liberty being threatened, which seems to be avoiding an exceedingly safe ion in very low concentrations, it pretty much falls apart.

    And then a few people just didn’t want to pay money so others could have better teeth.

    Dipshits, all.

  5. Anna in PDX says:

    OK, I am pretty sad about this issue. But it is hard to discuss with a lot of people here. I voted for the measure and my SO voted against it – my mother voted against it and her husband voted for it.

    Those of us who are “for” are fairly easy to understand – we trust the science, and understand that dental health is an issue here.

    Those of us who are “against” are quite the spectrum.

    – Yes, there are a lot of anti-government and new-agey conspiracy people.
    – Portlanders who grew up here generally are proud of our water supply (one of the world’s purest, actually, and truly something to be very proud of) and have a “if it is not broke don’t fix it” attitude. They also remember having to take fluoride at school since it is not in the water and think we could just keep on doing that, or using tablets for children as I did in Tunisia where there was no fluoride in the water.
    – When City Council held hearings on this, the scientists who spoke in favor used detailed data that was not very convincing as one of their points was that in most places, there is more fluoride in the water than the optimal amount, but in Portland there is a lot less, and the take away from the discussion was that overall, we’ve put too much of this into the water.

    I am very disappointed at the overall tone of the debate and I am depressed that there are so many people who believe crank anti-science. But I also think the pro people did not do a very good job of campaigning. You need to respond to the cranks directly rather than just say that it is a good idea for kids’ dental health, and you need to be convincing and persuasive.

    Finally, I am so annoyed at the environmentalists who basically lied in an indirect fashion by making it sound to the average voter that our actual acquifer was at risk of having chemicals dumped in it. The fluoride was going to be added to the municipal supply, not added to the Bull Run reservoir, and this was just plain dishonest. I was also upset they came out against it at all, and this includes mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club that I normally depend on for good advice about ballot measures. Very disappointing.

    • marijane says:

      Totally agreed that the pro people did not address the cranks. I was at the dentist a week ago Monday and this was the #1 reason my hygenist felt the measure would fail.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        My hygienest who I saw on the previous Friday to your dental visit rolled her eyes and said she was glad she lived in Beaverton.

      • daveNYC says:

        I’m not even sure how you can deal with cranks. Rational science based arguments have a poor track record when going up against emotionally charged crazy talk.

        “No Chemicals In Our Water Supply” is pretty tough to beat, no matter how unconnected to reality it is.

    • Trollhattan says:

      Out of curiosity (and not a thread-jack attempt) do the good citizens of Portland who voted against this for environmental considerations (whether valid or not) know of the hijinks being pulled with the Portland Harbor Superfund site? They’re fighting the EPA in a fashion that would make a typical Texan proud.

  6. gratuitous says:

    Off year, off election day, low-turnout ballot. The anti forces were better organized, more passionate, and even though they were outspent 3-1, they were more effective in getting their message out and getting their people to return ballots.

    I think the folks working for fluoridation got complacent, and if my individual experience is any measure, they made the classic mistake of thinking that if they just explained themselves once, it would be enough for any discerning person to understand the reason to fluoridate the drinking water. Although I voted in the minority, I certainly wasn’t overwhelmed with information from the pro-fluoride faction.

    • Anna in PDX says:

      Exactly. I heard pro ads on Pandora and stuff but they just said “it’s good for kids’ teeth and all these other groups think it is a good idea!” – taking the “high road” and not responding to the anti-science lunatic arguments. I think they could have done a lot more, they obviously had the money for advertising.

  7. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    Isn’t this also partially about beer? Portland as a big brewery location is super defensive of its water?

    I ask because Asheville, NC, where I live, is rapidly becoming a major brewery center, and there has been some talk about stopping our flouride operation for beer purposes, plus all the crazy reasons.

    This is not to say that no flouride helps make better beer, I have just heard it bandied about as an issue.

    • Most big breweries treat their own water in their own ways — I know that dechlorination is common. I’m honestly not sure if anybody is worried about fluoride in beer though, I wills ay
      I brew my own beer with normal old fluoridated and chlorinated city water and it’s just fine.

    • marijane says:

      Some local brewers were concerned about this, yes.

    • Marek says:

      Hey, I’ll drink all the more beer if it’s good for my teeth. If it’s possible to drink more.

    • Nathan Willard says:

      Out here in the SylvaWhee, a local brewer sent out a note about fluoridation that was obviously just pass-through anti-fluoridation literature. I’ve been following beer pretty closely for a number of years, and haven’t ever heard it as an issue in brewing quality (unlike chlorine and chloramine). Given WNC, I’m guessing the asheville concerns are also just amplifying anxious consumers.

    • Tyto says:

      Don’t breweries treat their water via RO anyway?

  8. Black Butte Porter is brewed by Deschutes Brewing in Bend! Deschutes does have a Portland pub and brews some specialty small-batch stuff there though, so I’ll cut you a tiny bit of slack.

    This time…

  9. joe from Lowell says:

    I understand the politics: most people don’t vote in local elections, so small bands of motivated cranks can control specific issues.

  10. ZaftigAmazon says:

    Fluoride is an obsolete hyperthyroid medication that depresses thyroid function. It is probably not a coincidence that the incidence of hypothyroidism (low functioning thyroid) has skyrocketed as the fluoridation of water has spread. There may be other compounds we are exposed to that also depress thyroid function, but it is never good policy to expose large percentages of the population to old-style medications.

    Also, fluoridation of water is not a substitute for proper dental care. One study in New Zealand found that rates of cavities were slightly higher in some areas with fluoridated water, than other areas with unfluoridated water.

    Just because you are paranoid does not mean that someone isn’t out to get you.

    • Anna in PDX says:

      Saying it is not a substitute for proper dental care is such a dishonest argument. No one on the pro side was saying that with fluoride you’d never have to brush your teeth or go to the dentist. I am truly disgusted with these kinds of scare tactics used by the anti side.

      • Scanner says:

        From what I’ve seen, the anti-fluoridation crowd is like a perfect storm, cataloging a whole list of familiar, and awful arguments in one package.

        We saw some of these repurposed from against the Affordable Care Act, which suggests to some degree criticism is not fair to the pro-fluoride supporters because Americans are already receptive to that type of argument.

        ….At the same time, the ACA DID pass, and while I don’t know anything about referendums in Portland, on a nuts-and-bolts procedural level it sounds like a total disaster to have this question appear with a special election in May of an off year. Had the City Council voted on this six months earlier, might the referendum have passed on Election Day 2012?

    • calling all toasters says:

      “fluoridation of water is not a substitute for proper dental care.”

      You mean like brushing with a fluoride toothpaste? Duly noted.

    • anthrofred says:

      “It is probably not a coincidence” is a massive leap. I mean, it’s not like there have been any confounding variables over the last 60 years involving nutrition, lifestyle, and exposure to other environmental contaminants.

    • Stan Gable says:

      It is probably not a coincidence that the incidence of hypothyroidism (low functioning thyroid) has skyrocketed as the fluoridation of water has spread.

      Dr. S: “Wait! Did you know that there’s a direct correlation between the decline of Spirograph and the rise in gang activity? Think about it.”
      Bart: “I will.”
      Dr. S: “No, you won’t.”

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      That is calling out for a couple of ‘Citation Needed’ tags. Both for the “obsolete hyperthyroid medication” part (Galletti & Joyet reported trying fluorine salts for hyperthyroid in 1958, but was it ever prescribed?), and for the “skyrocketing incidence” claim.

  11. Bill Murray says:

    Fluoride decreases sperm count and motility in some animals, although the levels studied have been significantly higher than in fluoridated water

  12. J.W. Hamner says:

    There is also the fact that it’s a conspiracy between Big Dentist and Big Aluminum… i.e. that companies are fooling you into drinking their industrial waste.

    Well it will probably lead to a pretty good Portlandia episode, so that’s nice.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sing it! “The dream of the 50s is alive in Portland…Portland…Portland…”

    Please note: this was organized by “Clean Water Portland.” Just this week I saw flyers at Whole Foods (natch) for “Clean Water Philadelphia.”

  14. owlbear1 says:

    What other medications do you think would be safe to add to everyone’s water supply FOR THE CHILDREN?

    Anti-depressants? Amphetamines? Certainly in the right amounts these will help everyone too!

    You know if we added small amounts of Ibuprofen to the water no one would have to suffer through muscle pain.

    Such a waste not using the water supply as a drug dispensary.

    • wjts says:

      What other medications do you think would be safe to add to everyone’s water supply FOR THE CHILDREN?

      Cephalexin, midazolam, and Dr. D’s Patent Radium Curative Tonic would be good starts.

    • calling all toasters says:

      Until now I had no idea that fluoride is psychoactive. Really, I didn’t.

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        The Nazis have been using it to tranquilise the captives in their moon-base prison camps for NEARLY 70 YEARS, and you’ve only just heard??

    • Malaclypse says:

      Seriously. Why, next, some quack may propose adding vitamin D to milk. Slippery slope, sheeple!

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, in certain cases it makes sense:
      1) deficiency of a substance can cause permanent devastating damage
      2) prophylactic medications exist & are very cheap
      3) efforts to address that insufficiency by other means cannot be guaranteed to be gap-free
      4) the remedy is shown to be largely benign in terms of side effects,
      Note that your ibuprofen example fails all 4 criteria.

      But when those criteria apply, yes, large scale “dosing” sure is the right thing to do:
      1) we added folic acid to bread and spina bifida rates plummeted.
      2) we added iodine to salt, and rates of hypothyroidism, cretinism and goiter plummeted
      3) we added Vitamin D to milk, and osteoporosis plummeted, and rickets scarcely exists at all.
      4) we added fluoride to tap water and rates of dental caries plummeted.

      • owlbear1 says:

        Why aren’t we adding the Fluoride to foods?

        • Malaclypse says:

          Because there is no centralized source for food, making the goal of universality impossible?

          • owlbear1 says:

            And Fluoride is only viable if it is universally administered?

            • Malaclypse says:

              Did you bother to read Anonymous’ point 3, or did you not understand it?

              • owlbear1 says:

                People have the option to avoid fortified foods. Difficult but possible.

                It is nearly impossible to avoid fortified water.

                It is a simple matter of consent.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I suppose simpty ignoring point 3 while shouting “FREEDOM!!!” works as well.

                • owlbear1 says:

                  I suppose simpty ignoring point 3 while shouting “FREEDOM!!!” works as well.

                  Add Fluoride to the foods that cause the worst cavities.

                  Point 3 declares there must be universal coverage because…

                • Anonymous says:

                  This is sadly incorrect – in many urban settings WITH fluoridated water (I work in public health in one), they’re seeing increases in tooth decay because people drink bottled water instead of tap water. And it’s not just a rich person issue. Mexican and Central American migrant populations often purchase bottled water and will not drink tap water even though it’s safe and free. So people are successfully “avoiding” tap water without even trying to.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Point 3 declares there must be universal coverage because…

                  “efforts to address that insufficiency by other means cannot be guaranteed to be gap-free”

                  Did you not read, or do you not understand?

                  And I urge you to wrote to the ADA proposing fluoridating candy, because that is fucking awesome. Remember, the proper ending for your missive should be P.S. I AM NOT A CRANK.

                  And, really, you don’t trust government water with fluoride, but do without? Either way, you are getting poisoned by the Illuminati, no?

                • owlbear1 says:

                  I was wondering what kind of effects bottled water was having in cities that have fluoridated. I am not arguing that fluoridation is dangerous nor am I saying it is useless. I just have an issue with the water supply being the choice of fortification.

                • William Berry says:

                  Bullshit. If you are so concerned, why don’t you try osmotic filtration or drink bottled water— hell, a compact rainwater cistern works great— and leave everyone else the fuck alone?

                • owlbear1 says:

                  William Berry says:
                  May 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm

                  Bullshit. If you are so concerned, why don’t you try osmotic filtration or drink bottled water— hell, a compact rainwater cistern works great— and leave everyone else the fuck alone?

                  Leave everyone else alone? Who are the ones insisting that something should be added to everyone’s’ drinking water?

                • Philip says:

                  I am in favor of the government making certain decisions in the interest of the public, even if some of the public is too stupid to accept it. Other examples include every health/safety regulation ever.

                • DrDick says:

                  I do believe that there is this thing called “bottled water”, which does not contain fluoride. It is readily available and I know a number of people people who buy it to avoid contaminants in the drinking water (heavy metals around here).

                • Slocum says:

                  From now on you have to sign a consent form any time you use a public good or benefit from a positive externality.

          • commie atheist says:

            Come, now. The commies got hold of our water supply. What makes you think they couldn’t centralize everything else?

            Ice cream, Mandrake. Children’s ice cream!

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        5) Australia added thiamine to bread flour and reduced the incidence of Korsakoff’s syndrome.
        The ideal solution would have been to add it to beer to target the individuals at risk, but that was stopped by a coalition of brewers and anti-alcohol lobbyists.

      • fp says:

        Apparently cretinism wasn’t completely eliminated in Portland. Must be all the sea salt.

    • J.W. Hamner says:

      We’ve been fluoridating water for like 60+ years and still haven’t added any other diabolical chemicals to the water supply… that’s a mighty shallow angle on your slippery slope.

      Though perhaps you are right that Portland is the last domino necessary to fall before the UN can turn the world’s water into a CVS.

    • delurking says:

      We don’t add fluoride to the water here in Fort Smith, Arkansas. We’re also fairly poor, so expensive dental work (like caps or root canals) is generally right out for most people.

      I can’t tell you the number of students I have with missing teeth — these are 19, 20 year old students, not 40 year olds — or rotting teeth.

      What do you think their chances are of finding jobs with Fortune 500 companies?

    • commie atheist says:


    • Ryan says:

      Do you honestly believe this slippery slope argument?

      Can you point to any municipalities that have been fluoridating for decades that have just up and started putting medications in the water ?

      Do you think that fluoride is just any “medication”?

      Or could it possibly be that this is a special instance of a mineral we found in some cities’ water supplies that had a beneficial effect, copied that natural delivery method in other cities, and stopped there. Because that’s what actually happened. Not this unconvincing slippery slope bs.

      • owlbear1 says:

        This is one of those times where I feel the “Tyranny of the Majority” rearing its head.

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          sometimes the majority is right. this might be one of those times

        • wjts says:

          Yeah, nothing says “Tyranny of the Majority” like a public health initiative with a 60-year history of minimal cost, marked prophylactic effectiveness, and no substantive negative effects. I think it was Tocqueville’s go-to example.

          • owlbear1 says:

            I think we need a few more years before calling the experiment a success.

            Portland has decided not to participate.

            Put the Fluoride in food. Not the water.

            • daveNYC says:

              Three generations isn’t quite enough for you? Thinking that the next 20 years will lead to three headed mutant children (but with dazzlingly white smiles)?

        • Erik Loomis says:

          What is your position on vaccinations?

          • owlbear1 says:

            Vaccinations are extremely beneficial. Demanding children get them to so they can safely participate in public education is a very reasonable request. Encouraging everyone else to also get vaccinated helps build a herd immunity.

            Declaring that everyone must be inoculated whether or not they want is basically saying, “I have god-like knowledge of what is best so I don’t need your consent.”

            Also, having bad teeth isn’t a communicable disease.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              Also, having bad teeth isn’t a communicable disease.

              Apparently it is. People have different mouth fauna — the Streptococcus caries in particular — and exchange them through the usual routes.

        • Ryan says:

          Didn’t argue that it was right because lots of people have done it. I argued that we’ve done this over and over and none of this phantom creeping overmedication you warn of has ever turned up. So what were you on about again?

        • Johnny Sack says:

          Tyranny of the majority != allowing a minority of cranks and paranoiacs veto everything

      • Hogan says:

        It sounds a lot like the natural course of anti-single payer arguments. “That’s never been done!” Actually it’s been done lots of places, including highly developed countries. “But it always turns out to be a disaster!” No, in fact the people in those systems are by and large very happy with them. “But it won’t work here! We’re different! We value our freedom more than those people!” Um, maybe you don’t speak for all of us on that?

    • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

      FOR THE CHILDREN arguments are always the worst.

  15. marijane says:

    Another important factor in this outcome is how it came to a public vote in the first place — the City Council voted last summer to start adding it to the water supply in 2014. This upset a lot of people who believed the public should vote on what happens to the public water supply, and that led to the ballot measure.

    • Anna in PDX says:

      Yes, this. I forgot to mention that in my post above. It was really an important thing. We are very initiative/referendum oriented, one of the first states to have these tools, and we don’t like it when we see the legislature doing something that we think should be decided directly. In cases like this, the default is to look askance at the thing they were trying to do. It was the job of the pro side to convince people who were already leaning no. And they didn’t succeed obviously.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        And by “legislature” in this case I just mean “city council” – sorry – but the same logic often applies to statewide measures.

      • Jay B. says:

        That’s stupid too. Why have a City Council if you then decide that it’s more important to have direct democracy than a representative one?

        • Cody says:

          I assume the idea is there are tons of little relatively minor things that have to be decided all the time.

          Rather let the “professionals” hash it out and just vote on major things.

  16. Tristan says:

    At least Portland has the excuse of never having had it. Where I live we just stopped using it, after decades, two years ago and – surprise! – cavity rates among children have since shot up.

    The dingbat city councilor who pushed for it, when pressed on this new information, declared that the issue was CLOSED FOREVER after they voted on it two years ago. For some reason, when the removal of flouride failed to pass a vote years earlier in the objectively more directly democratic form of a plebiscite, that DIDN’T close it.

    • Ramon A. Clef says:

      The county in which I live dropped fluoride a couple years back, at the instigation of Tea Party idiots. Fortunately for me, my city has its own water supply and slightly saner government. Fortunately for the county, the commissioners who voted to remove fluoride lost re-election and it has since been added to the water again,

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      What city please?

      • Ann Outhouse says:

        Possibly Pinellas, Florida, where I was living at the time.

        Here’s an article.

        Basically, the county commission got taken over by wingnuts and voted to stop flouridation. The Democratic candidates for the ensuing election did a very effective job of making their opponents look like the stupid paranoid cranks they are.

        Occasionally, sanity makes a fleeting appearance here in the Banana Republic of Florida.

      • Tristan says:

        Calgary in the Frozen North. Coincidentally I was just reading about our apparent spike in cavities right before I logged on and saw this.

  17. dnexon says:

    I recently discovered that some high-school acquaintances were part of the “anti” crowd. They buttressed their arguments with a bunch of crap studies. It was dispiriting.

  18. anthrofred says:

    For what it’s worth, soy contains isoflavones that are established endocrine disrupters, and probably significantly more potent than the small doses of fluorine in a municipal water supply. But soy is a sacred cow tofurky, so shh.

  19. jkay says:

    Ithaca, NY’s the same, as I found out to my dismay when I lived there two years.

    When I found out, I thought, who knew the town was ALL John Bircher, all the time. Clearly secretly.

    I’ve lived in impure-essence land the rest of my life, and have no cavities, though that’s just me.

  20. Kurzleg says:

    “The dream of the (General Ripper’s 19)’50’s is alive in Portland.” ?

  21. Desert Rat says:

    It’s nothing more than the same stupidity that causes huge chunks of people to believe that global warming is not real, and that never mind the measles outbreaks, vaccinations cause autism.

  22. Marek says:

    Fluoride is a smokescreen. Do you KNOW what the QUEERS are doing to the SOIL?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Can we give this kind of know-nothing liberalism a name? Like, I dunno, “Arianna Huffington”?

    (since HuffPo gives these nuts free rein….)

  24. Eli Rabett says:

    There are some issues, but on balance fluoridation is the way to go. Brian Schmidt who is a member of the Santa Clara Water Board and also Blogs at Rabett Run explains the balance.

  25. Paula says:

    “In a meta-analysis, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and China Medical University in Shenyang for the first time combined 27 studies and found strong indications that fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children.”

    I’m amazed at the reflexive reactions to this (and the vaccination debate) of otherwise skeptical people with good critical thinking skills. There are a lot of modern medical interventions that may solve some problems and create others. Or that were wrong-headed to begin with. (See, for instance, Hormone Replacement Therapy for menopausal women, or what they’re now saying about pelvic exams, or statin drugs, or low-fat/low-salt diets.) We’re not suddenly in some magical age where “science” gets everything right always and forever. And I love science! But even science encourages you to question your assumptions. :) Don’t assume people are nutballs just because they question the current conventional wisdom – Critical thinking skills apply to the conventional wisdom of science, too – and that’s how it will advance.

    • wjts says:

      The paper is a meta-analysis of 27 studies that compare IQ scores between groups of children with exposure to high levels of fluoride and exposure to low levels of fluoride. In each of the cases where the concentration of fluoride in the high-exposure group is given in terms of mg/L in drinking water, all of them (except one) are higher than the recommended concentration of 0.7-1.2 mg/L and are in many instances higher than the EPA-allowed concentration of 4.0 mg/L for drinking water.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      You appear to be convinced that the Harvard report and its critiques are new to the commenters here, who are merely responding with “reflexive reactions”.

      But the excerpted text dominating the post does mention the Harvard article in unfavourable terms (“has since been thoroughly refuted”). I followed Scott’s link through to the original SciAm blog; it supports that assessment by linking in turn to Neurologicablog:

    • sharculese says:

      Don’t assume people are nutballs just because they question the current conventional wisdom

      We don’t. We assume they’re nutballs because science has spent far more time than it really should patiently addressing all of their concerns, and discovered that they’re basically horseshit, and yet they still won’t shut up.

    • witless chum says:

      I’m amazed at the reflexive reactions to this (and the vaccination debate) of otherwise skeptical people with good critical thinking skills. There are a lot of modern medical interventions that may solve some problems and create others. Or that were wrong-headed to begin with. (See, for instance, Hormone Replacement Therapy for menopausal women, or what they’re now saying about pelvic exams, or statin drugs, or low-fat/low-salt diets.) We’re not suddenly in some magical age where “science” gets everything right always and forever. And I love science! But even science encourages you to question your assumptions. :) Don’t assume people are nutballs just because they question the current conventional wisdom – Critical thinking skills apply to the conventional wisdom of science, too – and that’s how it will advance.

      Your actual examples are all things that haven’t been tested as well as fluoride in the water or vaccines, or as widely adopted. So, we’ve got bad assumptions AND platitudes about skepticism, it must be my birthday!

      This exact same form, impugning scientific consensus by noting things that were disproven and falsely claiming that they were formerly the scientific consensus, is a favorite of evolution deniers and of climate change deniers.

    • Johnny Sack says:

      Moron alert!

  26. dollared says:

    Scott, kudos on the post title. I say every Friday we give the pure PDX kids Obsidian Stout ice cream floats, and then track their cavities over a five year period.

    Data should resolve this once and for all.

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