A broad coalition of Portlanders have resoundingly rejected adding fluoridation chemicals to the city's water supply. By a 61% to 39% margin, Portland voters agreed with the position of most western nations that there are safer, more effective, and less intrusive ways to promote oral health than adding a chemical linked to thyroid disease, IQ loss, and other ailments to the water supply.
“We are proud of our Portland colleagues who used science and integrity to defeat fluoridation and the public relations blitzkrieg that backed it,” says Paul Connett, PhD, FAN’s Executive Director.
Portland’s clean water campaign was spearheaded by Clean Water Portland (CWP), a broad coalition formed in August 2012 after a newspaper revealed secret ongoing fluoridation meetings with Portland City Council members that were illegally kept off the record. With virtually no public input, the City Council mandated fluoridation for the city on September 12. CWP then led an unprecedented effort that gathered over 40,000 signatures in less than 30 days to halt the mandate and force the referendum vote.
Fluoride chemicals are the only chemicals added to public water for the purpose of medication. Most western countries, including the vast majority of Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
“Most of Portland’s media falsely reported that fluoridation promoters had science on their side and that opponents used emotion,” says Connett.
In 2006, the NRC warned that current fluoride exposures in the US may increase the risk of thyroid disease, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders, and bone damage – particularly among people who have medical conditions that increase their vulnerability to fluoride. The NRC called on scientists to investigate fluoride’s role in chronic disease, but government health authorities have opted against funding this research.
Portland’s vote comes just six months after voters in Wichita, Kansas soundly rejected fluoridation by a 20% margin, and follows close on the heels of an announcement this April that Israel will be ending its mandatory fluoridation program. In Ireland, legislation was proposed this spring that would make it a criminal offense to add fluoride to public water supplies, and in Canada, the number of people drinking fluoridated water has dropped by about 25% since 2008.
“The 21st century does not take well to anachronistic medical practices, and fluoridation is no exception. This is why more than 120 communities have rejected fluoridation over the past 3 years alone,” says FAN’s Campaign Director, Stuart Cooper. “The trend is towards less fluoridation, not more.”
The breadth of the coalition was reflected in polling data showing bipartisan opposition to fluoridation among democrats, republicans, and independents alike, and overwhelming opposition among communities of color.
Voters who rejected fluoridation were concerned by research showing low-income communities to be at highest risk of fluoride’s adverse effects with virtually no offsetting benefit. This fact was not lost on Portland’s low-income neighborhoods, which voted overwhelmingly against fluoridation.
Fluoridation proponents had a massive war chest, raising almost $1 million. They used their nearly 4-to-1 funding advantage and media clout to flood Portland with misleading ads and editorials touting fluoridation as an urgently needed tool for solving the “dental crisis” in the city’s poor neighborhoods.
But there really wasn’t a dental crisis in Portland as the Oregon Department of Health’s own reports indicate. Fluoridationists tried to hide this inconvenient truth, pressuring state officials to not publicize new Smile Survey data showing Portland children’s decay rates have improved without fluoridation and, in fact, are better than most fluoridated cites.
There is a media frenzy around fluoridation as the victory in Portland is being covered by news organizations from around the world. Now is the time to take advantage of this breaking news story by sharing this link with local reporters, and by writing a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper about the victory and the need for your community to join Portland and Wichita in rejecting fluoridation.
The LTE section is one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper and can reach a large audience. Letters can influence the topics the local paper may choose to cover, and elected officials often monitor this section of the newspaper to follow constituents' opinions. Now it's time to have our voice heard, and our influence felt: