Fluoridation opponents: ‘We are not in a dental crisis’

A group opposed to flouridating Portland's city water rallied through the streets on April 25, 2013
A group opposed to flouridating Portland's city water rallied through the streets on April 25, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portlanders have one month to decide where they stand on adding fluoride to Portland’s municipal water supply.

A group against it took over the Last Thursday event, trying to convince voters to vote “no” on a May 2013 ballot measure. Up Northeast Alberta Street they came, in the midst of Thursday night activities, campaigning to keep fluoride out of Portland’s water.

“Fluoridation chemicals,” protestors chanted, “a risk we can’t afford!”

Zia McCabe organized the rally. She said most European countries have dropped using fluoride in water because of health concerns — and she says fluoride didn’t help Vancouver dental health get any better until people there started using dental sealants and fluoride tabs.

“You’re targeting the problem rather than blanketing a marginally successful concept to a whole community where there are people that would suffer,” McCabe said, “and [we’re] not even sure there’s people it would help.”

Fluoridation list
A list compiled by KOIN 6 News of Oregon cities with and without fluoridated water. (April 25, 2013 | KOIN 6 News)

But Portland dentist Dr. Mike Plunkett comes face to face every day with what he calls a tooth-decay crisis. More than half of Portland’s kids have tooth decay, Plunkett said.

He says exhaustive medical and dental studies — done by reputable experts in the country — indicate fluoride in municipal water systems works without harmful side effects.

“We know what is happening in our community,” Plunkett told KOIN 6 News. “And it is absolutely inexcusable that we have this great public health approach that has been tried and true for 60 years — that two-thirds of the American public benefits from — and we’re effectively withholding it from those children.”

Kelly Barnes, a volunteer for Clean Water Portland, said very recent studies show tooth decay is declining in Multnomah County. She said that’s because of things like the federally funded first-tooth program, which helps dentists identify early signs of tooth decay.

“We are doing better in Multnomah County on non-fluoridated water than many cities are doing across the nation, based on averages on fluoridated water,” Barnes said. “We are not in a dental crisis in Portland. We can always do better, but we need to talk about the true numbers.”

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