What To Do When the Unconventional Opinion Is Wrong

Clean Water?

When I’m not roaming the world, I live in Portland, Oregon, land of strong coffee and tall bikes.

Portland is a fun little place, and it also happens to be one of the most progressive cities in America. You can buy marijuana at a food cart beginning at approximately age twelve.

When George Bush (the first one) visited Portland, so many people turned out to protest that he dubbed the city “Little Beirut.”

Walking down the street on any given day, you’ll be accosted by people who want you to save the rain forest or support homeless anarchists.

For the most part, it feels like home.

A couple years ago, after moving from Seattle, I went to the dentist for a cleaning. The hygienist and the dentist both mentioned that I’d need to supplement brushing and flossing with my own fluoride source, since it’s not included in the water supply in Portland.

What? No fluoride in the water? That seemed strange, but what do I know about fluoride… obviously not much.

So then I do some reading and see that Portland is the only major metropolitan area in the entire U.S. that does not fluoridate its water. Really? The only one?

Because of the lack of fluoride, kids in Portland have twice the number of cavities as kids in Seattle.

Finally, the City Council voted last year to bring our city into the 20th century by approving fluoridation—and then all hell broke loose, with all sorts of people lining up to protest what seems to be a fairly normal thing elsewhere.

One of our newsweeklies, the Willamette Week, reported yesterday on the campaign to “stop putting drugs in the water” and the upcoming public referendum.

Much of this campaign is funded by out-of-state conservative groups, including the Koch brothers and the John Birch Society. All of these groups are lined up against virtually the entire medical community, with a tiny number of exceptions.

Yet here in the capital of hipsterdom, where Barack Obama is considered far too moderate for many Portlanders, it seems that a lot of people are buying into the idea that fluoride is a harmful intrusion into their civil liberties.

My favorite quote from the article described the strange coalition that has lined up to oppose health and hygiene:

“It’s as if an Occupy protest, a talk on artisanal cheesemaking, and a Tea Party rally were all accidentally booked at the same hotel ballroom.”

It all brings up a good question: it’s fine to oppose conventional wisdom, but what do you do if the conventional wisdom is right… and the unconventional opinion is wrong?

In this case, the hybrid campaign of Occupy + Tea Party + yoga moms against fluoridation is certainly unconventional. They’re challenging the entire medical establishment, including the CDC, which says that fluoridation is one of the top 10 health achievements of the last century.

Part of me respects their devotion to a cause they truly believe in, but I also think if it’s good enough for the CDC and every dentist in the land, it’s good enough for me.

Maybe I’m too judgmental, though. Maybe there’s a good reason all of these people are so upset.

Either way, what do you do when the unconventional opinion seems to be … wrong?

Feel free to share your comments, whether you’re from Portland or not.


Update: Thanks for all the comments! As you can see, a range of opinions was shared by our great community. We’re now moving on to other things next week.


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Image: Kurt Armstrong, Willamette Week

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  • Luella says:

    I’m with the unconventional moms and yoga people on this one. Fluoridation of water is bad. It’s a neurotoxin. You are lucky to not have it in your water. I would question whether your stat between Seattle and Portland is true.

    Sometimes conventional “wisdom” is being funded by special interests and is wrong.

  • Marion says:

    When I was growing up in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1950’s, we did not have fluoride in the city water supply (as a consequence, I have terrible teeth — lots of fillings and caps, a bridge, and a root canal). The reason those against fluoridation used at that time was that putting fluoride in the water was a Communist plot. If I were living in Portland now, I would be tempted to pass out tin foil hats to the opponents of fluoridation. I hope the people of Portland come to their senses and listen to the CDC and scientific data and allow for fluoride to be added to the city water supply. Good luck!

  • Bob Faw says:

    I think you raise great questions. This is why the scientific method (of unbiased inquiry, strengthened by independent testing, verifications, and eventually a consensus) is by far our best method of determining facts.

    Your example makes me think of the movement against inoculations, etc., I see in some of my “alternative health” friends here in New England. Despite the science, some of them insist it’s a conspiracy. Or there is widespread use of medical approaches that have been proven to not work repeatedly.
    The same confusion, but on a more violent scale, is happening to slow down the last attempts to eradicate small pox in Afghanistan.

    Our civilization evolves raggedly, in fits and starts. But it does evolve. No one in the US, regardless of how far left or right, uses leeches for the flu anymore.

  • Jeremy says:

    Amen! It seems like the very people who bemoan climate change deniers for not seeing the science are turning around and willfully not seeing the science on this.

  • @DanaManana says:

    “what do you do when the unconventional opinion seems to be … wrong?”

    If it is just an opinion, one of many other views then I guess that it is better to let go

  • Nathan Warden says:

    That is a million dollar question. I find myself asking that quite often these days. A follow up question could be, “When in the minority, and your values are different than the majority, how do you persevere knowing that you could be labeled as intolerant or ignorant?”

    Should our values or our rules be made by the majority of the people?

  • Karen Talavera says:

    This seems to me a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It’s also a classic example of people trying to stand on principle to “win the battle” without realizing that by doing so they’ll “lose the war” (or seen through a spiritual lens, of ego eclipsing higher consciousness/spirit).

    Maybe there ARE “good” reasons these people are so upset, but what I think we need to do when the unconventional opinion seems out of alignment with our greatest good is gently remind said people that Great trumps Good. In this specific case, that the greater benefit of adding fluoride to Portland’s water far exceeds the short-term or temporary “good”s of winning a civil liberties battle or trouncing the medical community.

    As the famous saying goes, “Would you rather be right, or be happy?”

    Lynne McTaggart has some great things to say about the power of community, cooperation and collective consciousness. Based on her thinking, the saddest part of this to me is that those opposing what is clearly in the greatest good of the whole clearly see themselves as disconnected from that whole. It is only when we see ourselves in the other and the other in ourselves that we ALL win.

  • Lory says:

    Hi Chris! Long-time reader, first-time responder. THANK YOU for bringing up the debate about fluoride. I have done countless hours of research on the subject and it all comes down to this: fluoride is a toxic waste byproduct and it causes many health problems, especially calcification of the pineal gland, or the Third Eye.

    If you read the back of a toothpaste box you will see that if a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is swallowed, you should call poison control. This pea-sized amount exists in every glass of fluoridated water.

    Nazis used fluoride to keep prisoners docile and apathetic. Governments today are using it for the same reason, under the guise that it is “Good for our teeth.”

    There are so many problems with this! The government must not interfere with our health by prescribing and not monitoring dosage… a baby’s intake of fluoridated water is much more dangerous than that of a 200lb person, but their dose is the same.

    The only way to remove fluoride from water is Reverse Osmosis.

    If a person chooses to use fluoride on his or her teeth, it can be applied topically. There is no reason for it to be ingested.

    I’m grateful that you are reaching such a large audience!

  • RenegadePilgrim says:

    I just moved from Portland to the lovely suburb of Milwaukie, so I don’t get to vote on this issue…and I really don’t feel strongly one way or the other about it. I grew up 40 miles east of Portland in rural Oregon on a small farm with a well. We didn’t have fluoride in our water and I’ve got the cavities to show for it! 🙂 Ironically, I grew up just down the road from the Bull Run Watershed, Portland’s source of water. I think a lot of these anti-fluoride people are also anti-vaccine (we have a really high rate of unvaccinated children in Oregon) and none of it is based on strong science. Yet, I find myself “getting” what they are saying too. It’s a conundrum for sure! I’m interested to see what the results will be of this vote.

  • Alana says:

    Interestingly enough a lot of non-mainstream health care practitioners, will tell you fluoride is harmful in drinking water but good for teeth (topically, so that it isn’t ingested). If you trace the history of fluoridation in the water, it points right back to financial profit. It’s quite fascinating. It’s become an accepted norm, but it’s not necessarily right. Lots of gray in this issue (including those pesky little cavities!)

  • Karen says:

    Since I suffered with many, many cavities when I was a child, I think fluoridating the water is a fine thing to do. This is not a case of intrusion into one’s civil liberties, rather it is a matter of public health. If the good citizens of Portland are so blind to the positive contribution to their children’s dental health, I am glad I raised my children elsewhere. What a shame some Luddite know-nothings have succeeded in holding sway in such a politically progressive city.

  • Sofia Collins says:

    I think individuals should make research outside on their own from about the effects of fluoride, and then decide whether its good or not. Natural health websites inform it is more toxic than thought, actually before being called a “cavity fighter” fluoride was an arsenic, I think that is enough.

  • Jen Gresham says:

    Do your own research and decide for yourself? I think the whole idea of conventional versus unconventional relies too much on other people researching and making decisions instead of doing those activities yourself. It’s taking sides as opposed to thorough decision making. I’d like to know how many people protesting have truly spent the time to research the topic on both sides of the fence (i.e. not just read propaganda, but delved into opposing theories). My hypothesis is: not many.

  • Adrian says:

    I see your point Chris and where I live, in the UK, all our water has been fluoridated for many years. I can, however, also see the objector’s argument, which I assume is about freedom of choice.

    Again, from a UK perspective, many decisions to restrict individual’s choice have been made by various levels of Government over many years, no doubt with good intentions. Many of these restrictions or impositions may seem, in themselves, to be perfectly sensible and can be objectively demonstrated to have clear beneficial effects, however, I also think we need to be wary that there can be costs to this approach on a larger scale. The costs can include the gradual erosion on individual freedom of choice and of the need for individuals to take responsibility for themselves.

    Over time I have come to realise that many small freedoms that everyone took for granted even 20 or 30 years ago (I’m now 54) have now been lost. Yes, these freedoms may, in certain cases, have had negative impacts but freedom does have a cost. Lately there has been a gradual assault on personal privacy (a key freedom), again well intentioned, but we have to consider not just each step but where the path will lead us.

  • John Sorenson says:

    Our market driven society always adds more, we never consider taking something away.

    I’m not anti-fluoride, I’m anti-cavity. I think fluoride is a “fix,” not a solution to the problem of dental decay. The logic is faulty. It’s the same logic that says, “Traffic is bad, let’s add more lanes and build more highways.”

    Adding fluoride doesn’t address the issue of why people have cavities. In human development, dental decay is a relatively recent problem. Not as recent as, say, diabetes, but here again we see the same faulty logic. If you have diabetes a socially acceptable solution, the “fix” is to take a pill (add more), not change your eating habits.

    “Conventional wisdom” is really a great concept, especially within the realm of non-conformity. “Conventional” is always withing a certain context, What is conventional in terms of travelling from Europe to America today is quite different than conventional travel 600 years ago. The same is true of dental decay. 600 years ago, the English had pretty good teeth but then they “discovered” very low cost sugar in the New World and then all the jokes began about the English and their famous teeth.

  • SarahK says:

    I recommend you do some of your own research on fluoridation. Check out studies done in some other first world countries.

  • Anita Chase says:

    I have mixed feelings about fluoride – on one hand, there is certainly evidence that it is good for your teeth. On the other hand, there are studies that say it is bad for your thyroid. I have never had a cavity, but I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the last year. Since then, I have been drinking much less tap water, using non-fluoride toothpaste, and taking a very small dose of thyroid hormones (half the dose I was originally prescribed). I feel much better.

    I work at a research oriented medical school and so when I get a chance, I would like to research this in PubMed and see what comes up. Even if there is a connection – it also may come down to which one effects more people. There will always be variances in what people should avoid, depending on their genetics and circumstances.

    Since most toothpaste has fluoride – maybe it doesn’t need to be in the water, if you use the toothpaste? I need to do more research to decide where I stand – but right now, due to my thyroid, I am erring on the side of caution and avoiding it where I can.

  • MD Account says:

    My small hometown also doesn’t put fluoride in the water, despite the offer from local dentists to pay for it. I no longer live there (and haven’t for 20 years) but I think of it each time I’m at the dentist. As it happens, I’ll be in the dentist’s chair within the hour, getting three crowns replaced that have worn out, and I’m only 49. I started getting major dental work done starting in my teens. How is it again that keeping the water pure helped me?

  • Harry says:

    It is hard to see which sites and research papers are funded by the evil Kochs, but several papers have suggested a correlation between fluoride in the water and arthritis.

    As only a small part of the population suffers from that (but they suffer big), it would make sense for them to be able to choose whether to take fluoride to prevent cavities or not.

    By the way, if you read In Defence of Food from Michael Pollan, then you will learn some history about dental problems. They only started after we started eating processed food.

  • Debmalya says:

    When its wrong, then its better you dump it. As humans, I don’t think so we should be rigid. Just like Bruce Lee once said “Be water my friend”

  • Erick Widman says:

    My wife’s doctor was (kind of) joking that you can tell who grew up in Portland – as he did – because they don’t have any teeth after age 50.

  • Tiffany says:

    I’m first to say that I may not have all the info or right answers but I think floride should be a choice. I’m from Portland, born and raised and went to school in the Portland public school system, we took floride tablets once a day all through elementary school and my teeth are great, I’ve barely had any cavities. I think the money and effort is better put towards programs and education in schools than forcing everyone to take floride, bath in floride and water their gardens with it. I feel like it’s wastefully putting a foreign chemical into the environment. The studies on toxic affects of floride are pretty up in the air but there are a wide array of illnesses that are popping up in our society today and I believe a large part of that is due to toxicity from foreign object we put in our bodies and environment. I appreciated reading your view but in my humble opinion I still say no.

  • Bremt says:

    I think fluoride is a good thing, and use it myself in my toothpaste/mouthwash. BUT, forcing people to ingest it against their will is wrong and an ethical violation, whether its good for them or not. I live in America because I want to have freedom of choice. Choice to eat what I want, to do what I want, to say what I want. I think that Europe has it right as far as using the chemical in different applications. Most of Europe does NOT fluoridate the water, instead opting for tablets, salts & other means of distributing the chemical. So to me, I will continue my personal use of fluoride, but I think it should be a personal/family choice, not a forced choice, after all, I live in America, where I value my right to choose…

  • Amber J. says:

    When non conformity starts to impact your hygiene, I think it might be time to stop! Three cheers to getting some fluoride in Portland soon. I loved the city, and I’d like for everyone to have all of their teeth 🙂

  • Kirsten says:

    This is a tough one. I work in public health, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of the studies and policies are flawed. That said, fluoridation has been around for a long time, and the evidence is about as solid as it gets. I think the question here is more about thinking for yourself, educating yourself on the issues and making your own decisions. Following the unconventional opinion simply because it’s unconventional isn’t any better than following convention unthinkingly. Issues like water fluoridation where there’s an impassioned but ill-informed debate prove that it’s entirely possible to be an unconventional sheep.

  • Serena Star Leonard says:

    Yes at the outset fluoride seems like a great idea doesn’t it?!
    But if you do any research you will find that drinking fluoride has little or no effect on children’s teeth, but it does have an effect on everyone’s brain.

    Dentists rub fluoride on your teeth (even in fluoridated countries) and you have to leave it there for a period of time without eating and drinking. Two reasons, 1) it needs to sit on your teeth to have an impact and 2) it is poisonous.

    There is some research and much opinion that it is used to increase the docility of a population.

    Whether you choose to believe that or not, I find it interesting that governments will pay to add chemicals to water, but allow major soft drinks companies to destroy our environment in the name of profit. And I would assert that soft drinks would have a lot to say for the amount of tooth decay in any given country.

    I think the argument for tooth decay is spurious, the argument should be – do we allow governmental agencies undeniably backed by corporate dollars and motives to add chemicals to our precious water. The answer in my unconventional opinion, should always be no.

  • Francesca Thomas says:

    So you are just going to conform to the city council and go along with the city on fluoridating the water? Have you even done any research on the matter?

    As Lory says above – The fluoride that goes into the water is a TOXIC waste product and while topical fluoride is acceptable to help teeth (as on the teeth like toothpaste), ingesting or drinking fluoride on a daily basis is NOT.

    Even the toothpaste tubes says that if toothpaste is swallowed, call the poisons centre. Check your toothpaste tube – you’ll find it – unless you buy the non-fluoride toothpaste.

    Anyway, you may have just finished visiting all the countries of the world, but you have not learnt a thing. You cannot claim to be a true non-conformist when you are just going to conform to what the city council wants and you dont even bother to research the issues for yourself.

    The things that causes cavities is sugar – and parents need to stop allowing their kids to eat sugar in large quantities and have the kids to brush their teeth on a regular basis.

    Fluoride is also known to interfere with thyroid function and thyroid function is very very important in the human body.

    Do your own research!!!

  • Kat says:

    i havent researched it at all but I do remember hearing that you’re not supposed to ever drink fluoride, which is why at the dentist it’s a fluoride rinse. So the thought I’ve heard is that over time all the tiny amount of fluoride we ingest isn’t good for our bodies. I’d definitely prefer a rinse but if Seattle kids half half the cavities apparently people aren’t using it…

  • Linda says:

    Here in Ireland there is a campaign against fluoride ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’ is taking the Irish Government to court because they continue to add dangerous and untested chemicals to the Irish drinking water supply. And in nearly 50 years haven’t produced any testing to show that it’s safe. and its NOT!
    I often wonder how so many people were duped into believing fluoride was good for their teeth. It must taken a marketing genius to persuade the population that what was essentially rat poison in chemical terms, was a panacea for their dental health. What never ceases to astound me is why people go along with the perceived wisdom that fluoride is essential for their teeth when the information that is now available says otherwise. If Bernays could sway the masses then do you have ideas how they could now be swayed in the opposite direction?

  • Cheryl says:

    No fluoride in our water here and healthy teeth to prove it. Take a look at Weston A. Price’s findings from studying other cultures and you may also take a second opinion. Cavities are not a product of fluoride-less waters, rather a diet based on too many grains, sugar and hfcs. Not a popular opinion but it is one that I stand behind. To build tooth enamel be sure to include fish liver oil and organ meats in your diet, how many people can we say eat like that nowadays??

  • Tara says:

    In this case I am not sure that the unconventional wisdom is wrong. There has been a debate about this in Canada for many years. In Vancouver (my home) and several other cities in Canada there is NO flouride in the water but in other Canadian cities there is and the debate rages on as to whether this should be stopped.

    At this point, I think it comes down to every person making their own choice for their family.

  • Nate says:

    I’m normally a big fan of your writing, but this time I think you are way off base.

    Fluoridation is far from a proven benefit. Yes, it is good for your teeth, but it damages your body (bones particularly). While it is commonly used in US water supplies, very few developed countries worldwide support it.

    Arguing for fluoridation isn’t wrong, but trying to frame this as a “mystics vs scientists” discussion is simply wrong.

    I’m not necessarily against fluoridation, but I am for logical, respectful discussion of the facts. And I am an ex-Portlander.

  • Connie Habash says:

    There’s already been a lot of great comments on this topic…
    Just wanted to share a recent article on the problems with fluoride.

    Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ – (Reuters – July 24, 2012)
    Harvard University researchers’ review of fluoride/brain studies concludes “our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.” It was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ journal. “The children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ than those who lived in low fluoride areas,” wrote Choi et al. Further, the EPA says fluoride is a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” Water was the only fluoride source in the studies reviewed and was based on high water fluoride levels.

  • Dick says:

    It is true that Fluoridation is quite good for hardening your teeth, but (big But), it has also been found to do the same for your arteries. Your teeth is one health subject, your complete bodies health is another subject. Most American brush their teeth with bleaching toothpaste chemicals….. so how is that good for the rest of your body. Sticking to the real facts, and good solid research will help to clarify your Fluoride misconceptions. The fact remains that too much fluoride
    is a poison for the rest of your body!

  • Brittany says:

    John Sorenson perfectly sums up what I have rattling around in my head. Growing up in Alaska both on the city water system and then off-system with a well, I never had fluoridated water as a child. Guess what? No cavities and never any problems. What I did have is a dad who raised me to take care of my teeth. We didn’t eat much junk food and I went to the dentist regularly. Now as an adult, my teeth are still great and I’ve still never had any cavities. I have been using baking soda to brush my teeth with for the past couple of years and my dental hygienist now jokes that she doesn’t know why I come in at all because I have such little inflammation and buildup on my teeth.

    I do think that providing fluoridated water just covers up the problem and doesn’t actually fix anything. I think it should be a choice to people, not a requirement.

    Yup, curious to see what turns up after the vote!

  • David Galiel says:

    “Facts are stubborn things” ― John Adams

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” ― Philip K. Dick

  • Krista says:

    Hi there. I’m not a big comment-er, but I feel obligated to chime in on this one! I am a fellow unconventional thinker… who happens to be an editor at the largest national dental trade magazine. My boss is one of the top fluoridationists in the country — almost single-handedly bringing fluoride to our state 20+ years ago, and still defending it diligently today.

    As an unconventional (radical, really… used to live in PDX!) thinker, you can see where the problems emerge with my livelihood. But I digress…

    I’ve been exposed to both sides of the literature in mass quantities, and I am convinced that, yes, fluoride prevents cavities… but at a huge cost to the rest of your body. There is numerous scientific evidence that fluoride is nothing but a toxic waste leftover of the nuclear and aluminum industries that works as a dumbing down agent to the human brain. So… yeah, great for your teeth, bad for just about everything else.

    And this isn’t just marginal thinking. Harvard School of Public Health and many other reputable sources confirms it.

    Thanks! Great article and good questions to raise!

  • Michael McDonald says:

    I’ve worked in the water industry for 23 years, designing systems to remove contaminants, I like to think I’m a Portlandian at heart…I trend liberal, I travel globally (49 countries and counting), and have both engineering and foreign language degrees. Fluoride is an ion, it’s right above chlorine in the periodic table, and it’s very clear to me that it’s harmless to humans in the salt form. And I’m a guy who removes the chlorine from tap water! This really isn’t a debate about fluoride, it’s really an indictment of the level of scientific literacy in the United States. The United States has failed miserably in education our next generation in science, not to mention cultural illiteracy about the rest of the planet. In short, this is the harvest of that mass ignorance, we never develop the ability for critical scientific or logical thinking, and we become tools of manipulators like the Koch brothers or misguided by false content on websites provided by charlatans. To answer your question, we must not “join a tribe” and embrace everthing said within it. Read up from a variety of sources and if you can’t defend your position without screaming, you just might be misinformed!

  • Jen says:

    Disappointing article. Question everything, yes, conventional or alternative. Make a decision based on research. The argument against fluoride has merit, yet you claim it’s proponents are just arguing to be alternative and they are wrong? Moreover, we are supposed have freedom of choice. Even if it were good for us, should it be imposed? That kind of precedent can lead to other imposed rules and restrictions on our freedoms because they are “good” for us.

  • ElyseBH says:

    Read the title again: how can an opinion be wrong? An opinion is an opinion and is never right or wrong – what we are commenting on is the facts behind the situation.

    In this case the facts are; Fluoride apparently reduces cavities; Fluoride is being put in our water without our permission; Fluoride can have negative side effects when ingested (as evidenced by all our toothpaste tubes). The only sensible answer is for our governments to allow us to choose for ourselves.

    Going back to the argument originally stated; none of those fighting against the fluoridation of water is denying it’s cavity applications, what they are fighting against is the negative effects of it on the body and the fact that our governments are pushing it on us.

    At the end of the day, tooth decay is not fatal in the vast majority of cases and people should be taking responsibility on themselves to eat a sensible diet and keep a good dental hygiene regimen.

  • Jeremy Stuart says:

    Isn’t this the basic assumption? If everyone thought the unconventional was right, it wouldn’t be unconventional. Am I missing something?

    This issue is so polarizing. And sadly there is a lot of false propaganda spread around on BOTH sides. Doctrines, profits, and fear seem to totally cloud the argument. Growing up I assumed it was safe and never gave it a second thought, but after a fair amount of reading actual science (not stuff about calcifying your pineal “third eye”) I’m firmly against fluoridation of our water. And thats not to say that there isn’t some benefit to topical treatment, however, there are already more effective (and safer) treatments in that realm, such as theobromine.

    If you REALLY look into the unbiased science on this I don’t think there is any way you can come out in the fluoridation camp.

  • Darnell Jackson says:

    Ha haaaaaa Chris you’re wrong.

    Did you know that Fluoride is a hazardous material? It has be be transported on specially marked hazmat trucks marked as hazardous but then its put in the water?

    Come on man.

    The idea that something needs to be added to our water to help our teeth is insanity.

    Why not add something to the water for our skin while your at it?

    You know lotion is good for your skin but you don’t put it in your drinking water do you?

    People are being conned and there are people making money off this junk.
    The truth remains if you want good teeth brush your grill people.

    If you want fluoride have all you want it’s in the toothpaste but don’t put it in the drinking water. You don’t eat toothpaste do you?

  • Sue says:

    I’m with Nate on this one–I’d also say you’re off-base with this one. I’ll also note that the article you linked to is also biased in its presentation of the issue.

    I’m a bit surprised that you are unquestioningly accepting that flouridation of municipal water sources must be just fine if every other state/municipality is doing it, especially after encouraging your readers to check things out for themselves and make up their own minds before joining the rest of the lemmings as they run off the edge of the cliff. The US and much of Canada is in fact out of step with their European counterparts who do NOT add flouride to the water.

    It’s unfortunate that this debate has been framed in the rhetoric of civil liberties and “the unconventional views of hippie yoga moms” rather than the concern for the potential health problems created by adding flouride to the water–namely it causes flourosis (pain and damage to the bones and joints and deformities) and can damage the thyroid & parathyroid glands. Flouridating water just gives a false sense of security about reduced tooth decay and removes the incentive to take actions that will definitely reduce tooth decay.

  • Adam says:

    In my humble opinion, the minority isn’t wrong here. As an EMT, if one of my patients has a life threatening illness, and they are mentally stable and don’t have an altered level of consciousness, they have the right to refuse any and all treatment, even if it means they’ll die. Fluoride is a form of mass medication, it has harmful effects, however possibly some helpful qualities as well. Perhaps it’s good, and desired by some people, but it shouldn’t be forced on all of us. I’ve been avoiding tap water for most of my life (it’s fluoridated here), and I don’t have a single cavity. Why should I have to subject myself to the harmful effects that come from drinking it, and don’t stand to benefit from it.

    In either case, to your original question of “what to do when the unconventional opinion is wrong?”… I feel it’s really no different then the inverse. It’s not a matter of choosing sides, regardless of whether it’s conventional or not, supported by the majority, or the minority, it’s important to evaluate things that come up, do our own research, and weigh it against our own values. And help other people make educated decisions on the matter if they’re inclined to do so.

  • Cate Caldwell says:

    I agree with all the folks on here who say do the research and decide for yourself. This is far and away not a hot button issue for me, living far from Portland and not really caring if flouride is in the water or not, but on issues I care about I don’t let buzz phrases, propoganda, or whether a viewpoint is considered ‘conventional’ or ‘unconventional’ sway my point of view. I mean, we all know that it’s bad to do things just because they are conventional. It’s almost as silly to do things just because they are not conventional. It remindes me of the kids in high school who dressed ‘counter culture’ and yet somehow managed to all look the same.

  • Maia Holliday says:

    I was born in Portland in the early 50’s and didn’t see a dentist until I was 8. I had only one cavity and otherwise healthy teeth. Then, we moved to a farm in Washington with a natural spring as a source of water. Same thing, healthy teeth. No fluoride. We also had parents who didn’t allow us to consume sugary pop and candy regularly.
    Bull Run water is a precious resource of relatively untainted water. That is a miracle in this century. Leave it alone and let people who want fluoride on their teeth and in their bodies to choose it for themselves and preserve this “threatened species” of city water.

  • Joseph Ratliff says:

    My Dad grew up in Portland. He has all his teeth, no cavities at all, hasn’t ever had them.

    But, I think we need to explore the scientific principle of “causation versus correlation” here. Just because some people (certainly NOT all) who lived in Portland have cavities, doesn’t mean at all that fluoride in the water has anything to do with it.

    There are cavities in other cities too… and there IS fluoride in the water.

    It’s been proven bad for children. It has also been shown to harm bones.

    But, even in the face of the evidence, I still drink my fluoridated water from the tap (like most people will keep doing even after reading this post and all the comments). We can’t escape everything. 🙂

  • Renee says:

    What? Have you looked at what the workers wear when they put the fluoride in the water? They are in full body protection suits! If they wear that, why would we put that chemical in our bodies? Water has some natural floride in it. The chemical put into city water is from China and is a byproduct of industrial waste!
    Do some of your own research before you buy into the CDC lie.

  • Chris says:

    I have had a lot of cavities and root canals, probably because of my addiction to sugar when I was little. One day, after my dentist tried to put yet more mercury in my mouth, I said “fuck it” and never went back. I didn’t get any “cleanings” or use any fluoride for over 10 years (reverse osmosis filtered water and fluoride free toothpaste only). I have had only one complication from an old and very large filling since. It is really freaking hard to avoid fluoride, if people really want it, they can easily get it, why force everyone to take it? This is yet another myth turned enforced reality, like the mercury fillings before. Dentists, like doctors, are only useful in emergency situations, I stay away otherwise, or they’ll try to fix problems I don’t have and create more problems along the way. 🙂

  • Terri says:

    The opinion on flouride in the water has recently been reconsidered by government bodies. Remember, every drug that has ever been recalled once had the government’s stamp of approval that it was safe and effective.

  • Lucinda Kiessling says:

    Perhaps the link below will convince you or at least educate you a bit more on the adverse effects of fluoride. Proper dental hygiene should eliminate any problems people have with cavities in Portland. Looks to me that the majority of people in Portland have got it right.

  • David Galiel says:

    To promote a rational, fact-based discussion on this issue, please do not strip out of comments all links to actual, sourced scientific data that is presented to counter the false, pseudo-scientific claims promoted by anti-fluoridation conspiracy-theorists.

    Many of these fear-mongers are also anti-vaccination activists, responsible for the deadly resurgence of whooping cough, measles and other highly infectious diseases, as more previously protected populations falling below herd immunity levels. As usual, the results of this kind of hysteria hits infants, young children and members of economically disadvantaged communities the hardest.

    And, as usual, true believers will latch on to any and all claims that confirm their pre-existing biases, and will shamelessly parrot false propaganda without checking the original sources for themselves.

    50+ years ago fluoridation was attacked as a “Communist plot” by Birchers and their ilk. Now it is attacked as a “Capitalist/Government plot” by Tea Partyists and wide-eyed New Agers.

    Legitimate facts, complete with citations of original research by credible sources, presented by legitimate medical experts, are what matter in this debate.

  • Chris says:


    We don’t edit comments (from either side, as you can see from many others that are posted here). If links are included, they are either removed automatically by our WordPress filter or sent to purgatory in the spam folder.

    I’m all for a rational, fact-based discussion and I’m glad to see a least a few people engaging in that. 🙂

  • Maryanne says:

    I have researched this over the last 15 years. The fact is flouride is a DRUG and the government has no right to add a drug to the water supply. I grew up with water flouridation and had cavities in every single one of my molars by the time I was 12. It causes osteosarcoma in young boys. I will go with the 1500 EPA scientists who say there should be a full moratorium on flouride while real research can be conducted longitudinally. What if your paradigms are affecting the way you view the issues? It takes far more courage to seek the truth. As many have said before, read the back of your flouridated toothpaste, the warning is clear. Do not ingest any of this product and if you do call the poison control center. When you learn how to take care of your teeth, you will have a healthy mouth with no flouride necessary.

  • Ashley says:

    A lot of folks above make excellent points on this topic, and I want to add a quick comment in response to the fluoride debate…

    I’m 28, grew up drinking fluoridated water, eating fluoride supplements, had fluoride put on my teeth at the dentist and used fluoride toothpaste. I ended up with 30+ cavities at age 14. The dentists were shocked and said I was one of the worst cases they’d seen. So I honestly don’t believe fluoride does anything or our teeth, or it’s minimal at best.

    I believe the modern diet has more to do with cavities (sugar, wheat, acidic foods), that sit on our teeth and in our mouths and ultimately affect our health internally as well and thus our dental health.

    Probably other factors as well, but I’m also surprised that in this case you think the unconventional thought is wrong. Just because conventional doctors or dentists believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. Look at how often doctors use pitocin on laboring women, but that’s been shown to cause problems and be of little benefit.

    Always, always do your research, and look out for flawed/biased studies as well.

  • Joann says:

    Alas, the Birchers are right on this one. The original research on fluoridation was done with a different type of fluoride (sodium fluoride) than is now being put in the water supply (sodium hexofluoroaluminate). The current one is from smelter waste and is toxic.

    In Europe, the water isn’t fluoridated because people believe that it’s a form of medical treatment and individuals have to consent to medical treatment.

    We buy Crystal Geyser water in the belief (hope) that it’s not fluoridated. It’s almost worth moving to Portland for this LOL

  • Chris says:

    Ok, back to the actual question. The answer is Nothing. Most unconventional opinions are wrong. The “conventional” is highly correlated with “what works”. People keep doing most things because they work, or have no visible negative effects. So usually its ok to go with the crowd. The crowd usually ignores invisible/long term negative effects, that’s where we have to pay attention to what’s actually happening and find out what “works” and what “doesn’t work” for each of us. (and that’s what you’re very good at Chris G, thanks!) Then its easy to defend our choices. It always helps if we are allowed to make choices, which in the fluoride case we are not.

  • Michael McDonald says:

    After reading this comment thread…I rest my case. No scientific method, no reference to large studies with control groups, people can’t spell fluoride correctly, confuse fluorine gas with fluoride in a salt form, are convinced that workers handling high strength solutions to impart a 1 mg/L finished dosage means the product is unsafe, and that “I didn’t have access to fluoride and I don’t have cavities, so QED I disproved your premise”. Just sad.

  • JBM says:

    People are often wrong. It doesn’t matter the ideology, political stance, or whatever – people are often wrong. Ideologies are more about values and general direction and not much about facts at all – in any given detail, they can be right or wrong.

    A majority is simply people, amplified. Just as people are often wrong, majorities can also be wrong if any dissenting voices are silenced or shouted down. It would probably horrify the average Portlander to know they are part of the dissent-silencing oppressive majority – but the power of a majority knows no ideology.

    Being open-minded requires a strong commitment to simultaneously being rational, and using and encouraging critical thinking. Being open-minded does not mean having an empty head, or having no filters on what goes into it.

    “If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw all sorts of rubbish into it.”

  • David Galiel says:

    Unfortunately, without the ability to link directly to exhaustive authoritative, credible, worldwide sources of accurate information – the result of over 65 years of research demonstrating both the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation – the false, pseudo-scientific claims carry equal weight when read by the largely uninformed general public.

    Thus, we end up with a phony, Fox-News mentality that discounts evidence-based claims in favor of emotionally pleasing claims.

    We end up with a notion that all claims are valid merely by virtue of being made, facts be damned.

    We end up unwittingly supporting the “teach the controversy” strategy which is exactly what creationists, climate change denialists, anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy mongers use to confuse the public and promote ideas about public health and safety more suited to the Middle Ages than the 21st century.

    Encouraging an open dialog sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, without any way to check sources of claims, the strategy of the “Big Lie” wins the day.

  • J says:

    The idea that we would knowingly add an industrial byproduct from fertilizer production to some of the best drinking water in the world seems unbelievable. But it does not take more than a little time at a local library or a few minutes on-line to read page 15 of the National Academy of Sciences “Fluoride in Drinking Water” report to see for yourself that fluoridation means adding “byproducts from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer” to our water.

    The Portland Water Bureau admits fluoridation would mean adding the chemical fluorosilicic acid (FSA) to our drinking water. FSA is not a mineral like calcium fluoride. FSA is not even pharmaceutical grade fluoride like what is found in toothpaste. Instead, FSA comes in chemical tanker trucks and is so corrosive and acidic the Water Bureau has admitted it would also have to add a caustic neutralizer to our water to minimize the amount of lead FSA would leach from our water pipes. Even the lead fluoridation promoters don’t dispute that the FSA is an industrial byproduct that contains known toxics such as arsenic, lead, and even mercury, they just claim that the levels of these toxics are too low to matter.

  • John says:

    I hope the voters are successful keeping fluoride out of the water in Portland. It is a toxic waste and a known carcinogen. It does not belong in water systems anywhere. The FDA has come out with warnings of dental fluorosis in children due to too much fluoride. Their warnings usually lag behind the real problems quite a bit, especially when profits are involved.

    The actual fluoride put into municipal water systems is not an organic or naturally occurring substance. It is industrial waste. The EPA has very strict regulations regarding its disposal. So the EPA will fine you and shut down your operation if the stuff were to hit the ground, but it is okay to put into the public drinking water. Why does that make sense to anyone? Because the government has your best health interests in mind? Water fluoridation is a great coup for the companies that produce it, like fertilizer and aluminum companies. Instead of having to pay for disposal, they are get paid to dispose of it into the water supply. Awesome.

    Check out www dot fluoridealert dot org. Also check out Mike Adams at Natural News.

    The ADA does not support ingesting fluoride, only topical apps.

  • DAVE says:

    I think Portland is doing the right thing by keeping fluoride out of the water system. The factual data is not clear about whether it is the fluoride in public water or other factors that prevent tooth decay. But one thing that is very certain, fluoride is a poison in high concentrations. It is only approved for ingestion in very small amounts, and these amounts will vary based on the age and size of the person or animal that ingests them. The legally approved “safe” amounts may have no effect on dental health. Another fact that is also very certain is that a huge percentage of the fluoride in the public water system is literally flushed down the toilet. From an economic perspective, any government agency would and should be scrutinized if they were flushing tax payer funds down the toilet. Clearly it would make more economic sense to buy a real fluoride product for every child in any jurisdiction, than to put it in the drinking water and guess that the children will actually ingest the fluoride. All fluoride products for dental uses are clearly marked that the product should not be ingested. Don’t buy into the propaganda from the drug companies. Fluoride kills fish.

  • Alain says:

    “You didn’t grow up around here, did you?” That’s what the dentist at the Geriatric Dental Clinic said after declaring me cavity free at my most recent check-up.

    So many heartfelt threads, such a lack of critical thinking on both sides, such a perfectly Portland kind of conversation. In the end I have to trust the democratic process. When the time comes you got to walk it like you talk it. Fill in your ballot and pop it in the mail.

    A real Guillebeauian Non-Conformist would be contemplating the $100.00 Startup to monetize the result regardless of who won. DIY Fluoridation kits or Super Anti-Flouride activated charcoal cartridges to slap on your Brita. Let’s make some lemonade and keep building the Non-Conformist life. Thank-you Chris for never failing to challenge and keeping things juicy.

  • David Lynch says:

    First, let’s set aside the argument about whether or not fluoride is safe. The real issue to me is that people should have the right to have un-fluoridated water if they choose. If a water system does not fluoridate, those who want fluoride can add it via toothpaste or as a water additive (both alternatives are very inexpensive). But if a water system does provide fluoride, those who don’t want it are stuck – unless they install expensive filtration equipment to remove it, which most people can’t do. It should approached like smoking legislation – the rights of those who choose not to be exposed to cigarette smoke have been upheld. It should be the same for those who choose not to be exposed to fluoride.

  • clh says:

    Do more research!
    This is disturbing to me.
    I can’t believe that anyone would support putting fluoride in
    the municipal water supply if it is not already there.
    There is still research being done linking the connection to
    dementia and other diseases! Plus diet is the biggest factor in tooth health. Good grief!

  • Melissa says:


    The people that equate water fluoridation with vaccination irritate me, and here’s why: Vaccinations, or the lack thereof, put everyone’s health and lives at stake. Cavities are not contagious, nor are they inherently life-threatening, and are, additionally well known to be caused by a diet high in sugars. Forcing people to consume chemicals, the legitimate safety of which has not been satisfactorily proven because OMG!THEY MIGHT GET AN UNSIGHTLY CAVITY is beyond hubris and, in my opinion, a HUGE governmental overstep. That money and energy would be better spent by providing proper education and making sure that the poor (who are the most likely to suffer dental issues) have access to appropriate health care services and real, healthy food, instead of being forced to subsist on cheap, processed, chemical & sugar laden foods because it’s all they can afford.

    /steps off soap-box

  • Edith says:

    I am from originally from NYC and I now live in Beaverton. I studied biochemistry in college and I continue to be amazed at the outright falsehoods that parade around as so called ‘unconventional’ health thinking in Portland, of which the flouride issue is only one.

    The thing is, I really don’t care WHAT the reason is why people are absolutely willing to shout, scream and possible disrupt other citizens health and well being for their own benefit. It really does seem to be a case of incredible self deluded vanity, in which people are willing and able to believe lies over facts and scientific evidence. People should be called out for it and at least own up to the fact they believe fairy tales and lies, as the WW has tried to do.

    The thing is, sometimes what is called unconventional thinking is nothing more than self absorbed crankism. When evaluating so called unconventional thinking, I always ask:
    Is this testable? What are the results? What isthe evidence? What the long term benefits and side effects? In this case, we know the results from non flouridation of water- cavities in teeth, which can lead to longer term health effects in the body.

  • Sarah says:

    I’m a Portland native. I’ve been following this blog for several years, and have purchased three of your products. You just lost me, Chris. If you haven’t done enough research to know how biased and sloppy the Willamette Week (and The Mercury) are then you probably haven’t done enough research on fluoridation to call its opponents “wrong”. We haven’t had reliable print media in Portland since the 90s. You had to see the decline to understand the impact this has caused.

    As another commenter mentioned, we had fluoride treatment in elementary school while I was growing up in Portland. Dental workers would come in and it was available in public schools, free of charge, to anyone who wanted it. The key was it that it was OPTIONAL. Fluoride is available in every $3 tube of toothpaste.

    There is a lot more to the stats you are quoting than is available in a cursory Google about fluoride. Reading the WW does not in any way fall into the category of informing yourself. Implying someone is wrong whilst simultaneously admitting to being uninformed is one of the most “conventional” things one can do.

  • Chris says:


    I’m sorry I’ve lost you and I respect your opinion. As I said in the post, maybe I’m wrong… which is why I thought I’d ask what other people think.

  • Tim says:

    I haven’t done any research or anything, but growing up it was always kinda understood that the fluoride on toothpaste is MOST PROBABLY good for you when it’s used for brushing, and most probably bad for you when ingested. I had no idea that it was in almost everyone’s water supply! There are probably more things to be concerned about though like leakage from sewer pipes or rusty pipes or other chemicals/bacteria in our supply. As for the cavities, I seriously think brushing, flossing , and less sweets and sweet things should do the trick…

  • Jennifer says:

    I have not read the massive amount of research on flouride so I cannot speak to the benefits or adverse effects (yes, I have been a flouridated water drinker for over 50 years) but I caution all of us on accepting declarations by anyone, even the CDC and medical community, without questioning. Many recommendations from those we would consider reliable sources are based on “bad science”. The large-scale epidemiological studies are some of the worst—because the researchers cannot control variables and are frequently basing recommendations on participant self-reports. “Association” is not “causation”. Many studies that find an “association” are later debunked by randomized control trials-yet we are inclined to change our behaviors and medical treatments based on “associations”.

    Would we really need flouride in our water supply if we didn’t consume so much sugar?

    I wonder if any studies have investigated neurological deficits in Portland vs Seattle? (Autism? Alzheimer’s?) That would be interesting.

    Interesting topic.


  • Ian Bob says:

    Dentistry must be an abnormally lucrative business in Portland. It’s like the Klondike of dentistry up there.

  • Rob S says:

    I think more than anything, this shows just how accepting is of norms set by authorities. Which is kinda ironic, considering the title of his blog.

    I wonder, Chris – did you research both sides of the argument? Or did you only search for ‘benefits of fluoride’? What makes these people wrong, and you right? How can you possible have a well-rounded opinion on this after only a quick read of, let’s face it, biased sources. All I’m saying is the pharmaceutical industry is profit-driven, and there’s no profit in curing illness.

    I enjoy your experience-based writing as much as anyone, Chris. But when you’re addressing health issues to a huge audience such as yours, with so little research done on your part, I would like to think you would exercise some responsibility.

    I, for one, have been keeping updated with research on fluoride for over 10 years. My conclusion? You’re lucky to live where you do.

    Well, you were.

  • Celeste says:

    It may be conventional wisdom here, but it is not conventional wisdom anywhere else in the world. And that is a weak argument.

    What I consider to be a strong argument?

    Please note that fluoride can be in bottled water and not on the label. Telling people to drink bottled water to avoid fluoride ignores this fact.

    Fluoride can not be easily or cheaply removed from the water. A system that removes fluoride at the very least costs over $100. This is not reasonable for people with expensive health costs from things like kidney disease that should not be drinking fluoridated water. Adding to their costs is ignoring the impact this has on everyone.

    Infants should not ingest any fluoride at all. Thus anyone using formula can not use tap water or bottled water to make infant formula.

    Fluoride has been detected in Portland’s water supply. Where is it coming from? Studies show that too much fluoride is detrimental. When the amount of fluoride gets too high, how do we correct it? If we don’t have an answer to that question, is it reasonable to add something to our water supply that we can’t reverse?

    Why is fluoride in toothpaste considering poisonous and requires a warning label?

  • Ada says:

    I had forgotten you were a Portlander, so it was so great to see this post! Call me a yoga-mom for fluoride (a naturally occurring mineral, because even Bull Run doesn’t give us pure H2O).

    Abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer. Evolution isn’t disproven simply because a “missing link” hasn’t been found. Global warming is real based on the preponderance of evidence. Homosexuality is not a mental illness. And my favorite, immunizations don’t cause autism. All of these concepts have Anti’s that use marginal research and coincidences to “prove” their version of reality. But its just confusion. Anything, even water, is toxic at certain levels.

    Just as we add chemicals to our water to make it potable, we owe our community this simple, safe and effective health care measure.

  • Nick King says:

    Haha, this might be one of your most commented posts 🙂 People get heat up about issues like these. While I remain strong with the idea that there is no better solution for health than Clean Water, Air and Food and that nothing should be administered on a global scale, like adding things into public water, the cause of the problem is the secrecy and heavy lobbying from the Government to push these programs on the public. Naturally this backfires. And just like with GMO, there is a lot of evidence to the negative effects of fluoridation, the problem is to see it from the consumer perspective, not the provider.

  • Sean says:

    Maybe if the fluoride issue wasn’t attached to the same website as anti-vaccine rhetoric and alternative medicine I’d give it the time of day.

    At the end of the day though, counter-culture isn’t really “unconventional”. It’s the flip side of the same coin. It’s the Pepsi to mainstream Coke. The true unconventional option is to think for yourself and stay at least a little detached from the issues you support. Always consider new information.

  • melissa says:

    I had every form of fluoride as a child, tablets swish, and toothpaste. My dentist lived next to us. So you can imagine I never missed an appointment. I also brushed diligently 2x/day. Result: lots of cavaties. I have 7 children only my 16 year old has ever had cavities. All sox of my boys cavity free with never a touch of fluoride. The difference is I ate junk as a kid and did not eat well my first pregnancy. Food quality traditional food like eggs beef butter milk fresh greens sunshine and a happy home make all the difference. Learn from my mistakes. God gives wisdom to those who ask. Otherwise we are on our own

  • pish says:

    the jury, as far as i can see, is still out on the safety/efficacy of fluouride in the water….i grew up with fluoride in my water and i have had a lot of dental problems ~ including constant cavities and now having 8 crowns….

    there are certainly any number of ways people who want fluoride can get fluoride into their mouths/bodies….it one wants it, that is an active step which should be taken, rather than those who choose to be fluoride-free having to take action to avoid it…it is my understanding the type of fluoride used does not occur in water naturally, nor in the amounts when it is added to the water supply….it should be matter of personal choice as opposed to it being forced on everyone….

  • Helen says:

    I live where water is floridated and many many people suffer from bad teeth. where does this “floride” come from? With or with out floride in the water you have to floss and brush your teeth and stay away from sugery sweets and soda. Where I live in NC the birth place of pepsi…so floride water doesn’t prevent cavities good diet and oral hygiene does. Just because the so-called experts say it is so…doesn’t mean it is so….remember big corporate money is behind their so called “expert” opinions..and our government unfortunately Does allow them to influence medical research…we will never get an objective unbiased study on vaccines. Japan had 2 children die from the DTap and stop immediately. 10yrs later the US still used DTap and my son was given it…and out of 4 kids (3 unvaccinated) he is the one with the learning disabilities, GI and health problems. coincidence?

  • Maria says:

    People can choose to take responsibility for themselves/their children etc. Swish your mouths with flouride if you want…………Why would someone want more crap in their bodies? (this IS water). The long range effect on your brain etc.? This is a control/greed issue….not health. I have lived here a long time and I used to think folks were wiser, free-er, not in the fear zone. To say the least it is discouraging (lack of courage)….

  • Rebecca says:

    Really people are b**#hing about fluoride when there seems to be bigger issues going on both here at home and abroad. Wow just takes all types I suppose although I guess they maybe thinking this could lead the way for other things to be dumped in your water supply (they maybe right).

  • Daniel says:

    Hi Chris!
    I’m also a Portlander who voted against fluoridation, and I feel like I have a good reason why.
    If we take the reported benefits of fluoride at face value, i would still ask why we should spend gobs of money and force everyone to use fluoridated water instead of setting up better dental programs where dentists can prescribe fluoride products to those who want to use them, and for free to low income households? It just seems some things, like water should come with as little attached to it as possible. Let those who want to use fluoride get some from their dentist.
    Love your posts!

  • Clayton Elliott says:

    I did lots of research into this a few years ago and discovered some startling facts. Too many points to list, so I’ll just mention a few:

    > There are many different types of “fluoride”

    > The type used in most drinking water and in all toothpaste is sodium fluoride

    > Sodium fluoride is a industrial waste byproduct of phosphate fertilizer production. It was expelled into the air until it was discovered that it caused acid rain and destroyed local crops close to where phosphate fertilizers were produced. They began barreling it after.

    > It’s the main ingredient in rat poison and other toxins used to kill insects and other vermin

    > If you call Poison Control and ask why fluoride-containing toothpaste is toxic when ingested, they will tell you it’s due to sodium fluoride (0.243% is the standard amount in toothpastes)

    > Dental fluorosis aka “mottled teeth” is damage to teeth caused by fluoride during time of tooth formation

    There are too many variables that contribute to tooth decay. To say that fluoride protects our teeth is misinformation. A real help would be to put vitamins & minerals in public drinking water that so many are deficient in thanks to the Standard American Diet

  • Michela says:

    I’ve live in Toronto, which has had fluoridated water since before I was born. I had tonnes of cavities when I was a kid. My oral health only improved as a teenager when I started brushing my teeth and flossing more often. At that point, I never got a cavity again.

    I’m not opposed to fluoridation, but wonder if it may just be a case of a decision that was made 50 years ago and never questioned again. Perhaps there’s no harm in revisiting the decision now. (50 years is a long time!)

    Food for thought: most European countries do not fluoridate their water, nor do many other countries. And there seems to be some research that indicates there are health risks associated with fluoridation that perhaps outweigh the potentially limited effects it has on oral health.

    Maybe it is just a case of those caged monkeys not knowing why they shouldn’t reach for those bananas.

    Our maybe you’re commenting on a controversial topic as a way to generate and promote discussion.

    (I just finished reading The Art of Non-Conformity today, so your words are fresh in my mind…)

  • Vanessa Uybarreta says:

    For me the question is, what is “wrong” and what is “right?” There are a million opinions about a million things, and even though people believe research, it isn’t always the answer, nor the full story.

    My point is, what’s right for one person can be wrong for another. Each person needs to find what is intuitively right for them and their family on any issue regardless what their friend, neighbor, MD, or expert says.

  • Changer4508 says:

    Clearly, a lack of fluoride in the water supply is the root of everyone’s dental problems. It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s diet.

  • Jennifer says:

    Here in BC Canada we don’t put Floride in our water. I use natural toothpaste which doesn’t cause any irritation in my mouth and it also doesn’t have any Floride. I brush 3-4 times a day and floss 2-5 times a week. I use a Floride rinse every 2 weeks or so and my oral health is good. I get the occasional teeny tiny cavity. I don’t want to ingest Floride. It’s a chemical. I don’t want to drink it. I use it as a rinse in small amounts and spread out. I like to have that choice. If you want to use and drink Floride buy it and do what you want with it. – my opinion 🙂

  • Dana says:

    People do not get cavities from lack of fluoride. No one was putting fluoride in the water supply in hunter-gatherer times. When was the last time you saw a Cro-Magnon skull that was missing half its teeth and you couldn’t attribute that tooth loss to the skull getting banged around? There are more recent examples as well. Teeth are not dead hard things in your mouth. They’re living, and they have to get proper nutrition or they will fall apart.

    Portland’s majority ideology being what it is, I could argue that there might be more vegetarians and vegans there than live in Seattle, and that might explain the tooth-decay discrepancy all by itself. Fetuses can’t make their own vitamin A from beta carotene and if pregnant women aren’t getting any real A in their diets, that vitamin controls the quality of enamel as your teeth develop. Lack of animal fat and sufficient minerals in the diet will do it too.

  • Dana says:

    Oh and before someone comments and says “no one in hunter-gatherer times lived past age 30 so that’s why they had good teeth”, number one, you’re wrong about the lifespan; lifespan is different from average life expectancy, and hunter-gatherer tribes had/have elders living into their 60s and 70s at least. Number two, we were discussing Portland CHILDREN with tooth decay. If no one in H-G times lived past, say, the age of five, we could not be having this discussion.

  • eM says:

    Much of the time it is not an issue of unconventional wisdom being right or wrong but of the impact on the individual.

    Fluoridation (and vaccinations) are two good examples of laws that may be okay for the vast majority of people, but then there is a small minority of people that are adversely affected and marginalized because they don’t have a choice.

    Several members of my family have bad reactions to fluoride. Their teeth turned gray and got really loose, and this condition was eventually found (scientifically) to be connected to fluoride. Most had dentures before graduating high school. But hey, they didn’t have any cavities!

    Unfortunately, the people who make these laws “for the greater good” are looking at numbers and forget that their are PEOPLE those numbers represent. What about them?

  • Robert says:

    I wonder how many times the words “fluoride” and “dangerous” are being typed into search engines today. Obviously this topic is controversial and to be frank I’ve never given it much thought nor will I after today. I’m more concerned that my aluminum deodorant is slowly turning my brain to mush or that each time I forget to wear sunscreen I’m going to get cancer or …. This has been an interesting thread to read though. Chris is pretty brave to throw this out there – braver to frame it in a way that he takes a side – “pro fluoride”. It’s obvious that many readers harbor very strong opinions on this subject. My observation is that when we are passionate about something it’s pretty difficult to change our thinking. When you invest a certain amount of effort or emotion into a position you pass a point of no return where being wrong is not an option. I wish there did not have to be a wrong or a right answer, but there usually is. In this case is it “wrong” to force a choice on others or is it “right” to try and tackle a public health issue? There are probably a middle way to handle this, but my guess is that it costs a lot more than building the water treatment plant.

  • David Galiel says:

    Scientific facts are not determined by popular opinion.

    If you wish to arrive at a rational, evidence-based conclusion about a matter of public health, you should research source material yourself. Science is the original open-source enterprise, and most original research reports are available for any public citizen to read online – most of them for free. In cases where the original research is behind a firewall, expert, professional review of the research is available.

    Public policy should be determined based on evidence, not ideology.

    That evidence should be obtained via the scientific method, not via hearsay – and evidence should be followed wherever it leads, rather than being cherry-picked or sought out to support one’s preexisting beliefs.

    Claimed facts should be presented with citations to source material, not Fox News-style.

    Without sources, you have no way to evaluate the authoritativeness of a claim, let alone its veracity.

    Skepticism should be applied most consistently when faced with claims that appear to confirm one’s preexisting biases.

    There are many things that are amenable to crowdsourcing, but reality is not one of them.

  • Taylor says:

    SO why are so FEW asking “WHAT’S IN IT FOR KOCH AND the JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY”? I mean, follow the money folks – emotions are over-ruling the sanity of a different question on this one. I see the name Koch and know there’s something bigger here than not wanting to poison children. Dentists and the industries supporting them and their products are making bank by having people’s teeth be at risk-but is THAT even the real story here? Now, is there a “safe” amount of fluoride or a healthy alternative? When we get mad, we get stupid – what are we missing about this “issue”? Generally, just follow the money…soooo…any rational ideas out there?

  • Scott says:

    Some PDXers will oppose just for their own exposure. There’s 7 times as much flouride in the ocean, so where’s the protest? Using grossly outdated reports does nothing to reverse the fact that native PDX has nasty teeth & the more the professional protesters shout, the higher their dental bills will go. Grew up with Flouride in Midwest, no cavities, no health problems- 100% informed support for flouridation in PDX!!

  • Terry says:

    I’ve lived in Toronto all my life where there has been fluoride in the water for the part 50 years. Exactly what kind of outbreak are we suppose to have? You have your scientific testing right here. You can’t pick and choose your science. The science behind water fluoridation is solid. I’ve lived my life with all sorts of garbage food type diets and barely a cavity to be found. At one point I hadn’t been to the dentist in 6 years, and the findings? No cavities and great looking teeth!

  • miriam says:

    whether you think flouride is good or bad letting the government put stuff in the water is a huge mistake….anytime government is involved it is a disaster….just look at the food pyramid….what a many times did our government change it and still dont have it right…water should be just pure water….if you want flouride most toothpastes have it and most dentists apply it to the teeth for free….but if you dont want it at least the water doesnt have it and you can get toothpaste without flouride…what about adults and older people that dont need flouride for their teeth….should it be in the water anyway???
    i think portland absolutely has it right…..and everybody else in this country are just sheep going to the slaughter…..

  • David says:

    This argument was going on when I grew up in PDX in the 1950’s and ’60s. It was lead by anti-Communists, as I remember, but I was young. My friend whose parents gave them fluoride has no cavities, while I have 13 crowns and untold root canals. There is lots of fluoride in toothpaste and at the dentists’ offices. Putting it in the water is kind of a no brainer.

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for this, Chris. I feel much the same as you do on this issue.

    When I moved to Portland, my dentist swooned over my teeth. “You have good, strong, East coast teeth,” she said, “not like people around here.” That was when I first learned about Portland’s lack of fluoridated water.

    I think, regardless of the toothy issues here, the most important lesson is to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. To always reject conventional wisdom requires no more critical thinking than to always accept it.

  • Martin Gray says:

    Congrats Chris on being prepared to stick your neck where (if they’re like me) your readers are made up of many un-conventionals, and do not at all therefore align with the Top Down approach of the conventionals (ie conformists): The reason medics and dentists and local Govts approve is NOT a reason it is ‘safe’: it s a reason that they are in the employ of continuing a business that profits from toxifying people and then selling them cures. Even worse is introducing chemicals that simply should NOT be in the body for the controls on health and mentality they create (documented). We now live (I believe) in a world that gives us power and technology to discover for ourselves the reasons to apply or not, something such as Fluoride into our bodies. We have that choice and it should always BE a (free) choice, not ‘imposed’ because a few economically minded companies and individuals stand to profit by something that LOWERS health and natural abilities.

  • Tom Allen says:

    There’s non-conformity and there’s anti-conformity. Sometimes people get them mixed up.

    The anti-conformist will oppose the mainstream for the sake of opposition, whether or not it actually makes sense.

    The non-conformist will ignore the mainstream and the opposition in direct pursuit of what actually makes sense.

    It sounds like the Portland/fluoride incident might be an example of that confusion.

    (Thanks for the tip, by the way — I’ll be bringing extra fluoride for the WDS!!!)

  • Martin Gray says:

    PS: It’s not ‘the fluoride’ It’s the KIND of fluoride: naturally occurring fluoride, with other natural co-compounds is a healthy mineral. What we’re talking about here is a bi-product (waste) of the pharma industry that someone passes off as good for all, when there are few independent studies showing that to be the case for most people. Like anything else: allow people to have access to FULL and all sides of info and THEN allow them to freely choose. Imposing a one size fits all is not democratic or respectful of human maturity: ie: what is the more important agenda therefore that someone woudl HAVE to force feed fluoride, not permit free choice ? Gotta ask THAT Q !!

  • linda G says:

    maybe Portland is the only city to be politically demanding enough to have gotten fluoride out of the water. your evidence that fluoride is good (some study shows there are “twice the cavities in portland as seattle”) is not thorough. Some of the comments get into it more deeply (“Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ, Reuters – July 24, 2012, Harvard University researchers’ review of fluoride/brain studies concludes “our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.”)

    If there’s so many unanswered questions about fluoride being harmful… and the only reason to have it is children’s teeth — and EVERYONE drinks water — then why not require parents/schools/doctors to give fluoride to children only? or let parents decide, like with immunizations or circumcisions? why exactly is it a “public health” issue that targets the water supply?

    and Why are the evil Kochs against fluoride? doesn’t make sense – they don’t seem like health advocates.

  • Damon says:

    Considering the fact doctors and dentists would rather put chemicals in our bodies than find a cure to most problems leaves me to not support the attitude of ‘if its good enough for most dentists in the land then it’s good enough for me”. It is now well known that Doctors and dentists have minimal education in nutrition, therefore, they are the last people we should ask for advice on the fluoride issue. Please! Educate yourself on what fluoride is and what it does to the human body. Then ask yourself if you want it in the water you drink everyday. If we educate ourselves the conventional and nonconventional opinions will be irrelevant.

  • J-P Voilleque says:

    I am constantly amazed by the ability to rattle off hasty generalizations posited as fact on the one hand, and accuse pro-fluoridation voters of falsely generalizing the benefits of flouride on the other. See also: Robert Kegan.

    A high school debate team would rip the anti-fluoride position to shreds. Not because they’re Hitler youth, but because they are taught about rhetorical fallacies and know how to unravel them. Also because, upon examination of the available evidence, they would find the “anti” support pretty thin on the ground.

    I can see the dilemma for a fellow like you, Chris. But in the same way that you don’t have to abandon money because it’s a construct, or miss planes all the time because the 24-hour day is an illusion, you don’t have to ignore the conclusions of scientists you respect just because there’s a subset of the universe who think that those conclusions are biased, bogus, or otherwise tainted.

    My dad’s a nuclear physicist whose career has been focused on dosimetry and risk assessment. Public reaction to trace quantities of radioactive material is no less virulent. In those cases, there’s some basis for freaking out. Fluoride, not so much.

  • Serie says:

    My opinion is undecided. I have colgate in my bathroom and drink tap water. I offer just a simple observation. Portland is populated with passionate, creative, free thinkers. Can we overlook the coincidence that the water there does not have fluoride?

    Can we consider this equation?
    Thank you Chris.

  • Joseph Bernard says:

    Well Chris, you stirred people up with this one.
    I have always been interested in my health. In my research into fluoride, I have decided it is not in the best interest of my health to use it. I have even gone to non-fluoride toothpaste. The early research on fluoride was very flawed. When I was a kid we had it in our water and we still had cavities.

    It makes sense to me that if you want fluoride then buy it. The quality of the fluoride that is often used in city water systems is very questionable as it is a by-product of making fertilizer.

    We are all responsible for making are own health choices. I suggest we keep it that way as much as possible. I’m a progressive in my politics. I don’t fear our government but I believe it is always important to question.

    The truth is the truth only on a personal level. No one knows my truth but me. Conventional wisdom or not seems irrelevant since both are too often manipulated by the ego-mind. Most if not all wars have originated from opposing religious beliefs and the rationalization of these beliefs which many considered “worth dying for?”

    If we don’t question, we can’t know what is truth for us.

  • Paula says:

    My immediate reaction was to focus on flouride and my opinions on it being added to water supply. I see that I wasn’t alone! But I’ll focus on your question about what happens when the unconventional thinkers are “wrong” – Just be who you really are and follow your own values even when you are surprised who you are agreeing with. That is as true as non-conformity gets in my book. Thanks as always for finding a new way of looking an issue.

  • Abby says:

    We all were given brains. Just because we might be unconventional in a lot of regards, doesn’t automatically mean we have to be unconventional on every single little subject under the sun. If its the norm to drive on the right side of the road (as I believe it is in your country), then I’m sure you’ll admit its a pretty foolish to start driving on the left, just because you’re unconventional! Its about using your common sense and finding the balance between the conventional and unconventional that gets you closest to living the life you want. Just because something is conventional doesn’t automatically mean its bad (equally, unconventional isn’t automatically bad) – all the unconventional does is provide alternative approaches to the conventional, but we still need to use our brains and make what we believe is the best decision, and not choose something solely because its unconventional (or conventional for that matter). While I’m personally on the unconventional side regarding fluoridation of water supplies, I believe everyone has to do their own research and come to the conclusion that sits best with them, based on the evidence available to them.

  • gibb says:

    congratulations Chris ,, on discovering how to fill your mail box with comments ,, its not your normal post ,, we all love your travel stories , and such ,, now touching on a specific subject of medication without consultation or permission is something different ,, hazardous waste aded to water that combines with the molecular level of enamel on our teeth by drinking it is amazing ,, the fact that if we swallow it ,,its a potential poison ,, flopurodation is a myth that they are in fear of having to admit they were wrong ,, just like smoking ,, sure ,, add nicotine to the water , its good for you ,, or is it ,, here in ireland , one of the few countries in Europe that still do it , there is a campaign to stop it ,, why ,, people are waking up ,, you write here to awaken peoples ideas ,, wtih this you dumb them down ,, educate yourself on the reality of flouride , not statistics that can be manipulated ,, coca cola laden sugar drinks are not healthy ,, but one has the choice to drink or not ,, i dont ,, or my kids ,, dental hygiene is more about personal care than mass medication by corporate groups ,, quick fix mentality doesnt work with peoples health ,,

  • David says:

    Three Cheers for Common Sense. Portland-ers are to be applauded for their stand against fluoride. I agree that special interest groups, aka Big Biz may be the challenge on this. Less is often more in the world of good health. Conventional wisdom wasn’t into chemical fertilizer before WWII. Conventional was about spreading manure on our fields and having a healthy soil. Now the Chemical Industry calls their solution conventional! Is the truth twisted by time or greed?

  • kathy says:

    I’ve been following you a long time and love most everything you do. Consider this. I drink water all day to try to stay healthy. I don’t drink soda or other drinks that would not be good for me (for the most part). I filter my water and drink it out of glass bottles. A filter will take out chlorine and all other known toxins, but it will not remove fluoride. Why should I have to put a toxin into my body to keep hydrated? I don’t want to support Nestle who supplies most of the bottled water. And besides I don’t want to drink out of plastic bottles.

  • playcrane says:

    The issue is rarely the issue. People are funny, aren’t they?

  • Raina says:

    1. Fluoride is not a byproduct of waste, it’s an element on the periodic table. There are many byproducts of waste that are not harmful, so don’t let the word ‘waste’ interfere with your acceptance of the fact that waste byproducts can either be benign or harmful.

    2. For all the people who post ‘my dad/sister/niece/grandma/whoever is from Portland and never had a cavity, well, hate to break it to you, but that really doesn’t prove your point that fluoridation in the water doesn’t matter. Your relative may have a better diet or lifestyle, genes, or brushing habits that make up for the lack of fluoridation. Let’s all agree that no one here is saying that not having any fluoride in the water is a surefire cause of cavities, right?

    3. Having fluoride in our drinking water is not the same as being gassed with fluoride in order to be controlled by the government.

    4. Fluoride doesn’t close your third eye.

    5. Fluoride exists in your body, in natural forms with other elements.

  • David says:

    If cavities are a problem, eat less sugar….we each have that choice. Fluoride in drinking water denies people the right to choose.

  • Sec says:

    Awesome discussion and more well informed people than I’m used to seeing about this topic (maybe because it’s on an “unconventional” website?). A lot of good comments and points to think about. Here’s some more…

    What about what would happen if flouride wasn’t in our water supply? Would people get so much more cavities that maybe they would stop to consider why they are getting so many? Like too much surgar perhaps? And maybe find a better solution than poison? Like eating natural surgar, and less of it.

    The debate shouldn’t be about flouride or no flouride, it should be about why we’re getting the cavities in the first place and how we can optimize our bodies to build strong teeth (for instance, there are known types of food and plants that build stronger teeth and fight off cavities).

    Any time conventional wisdom is based upon using something like toxins as a solution, we should definitely stop to think and question.

  • Danielle says:

    Chris, you disappointed me.

    It’s not that you were going public as “pro flouride” as the way you presented it. The title about the unconventional opinion being wrong. Really? Though I strongly oppose flouride in the water, I think this is a difficult issue with many well-intentioned people on both sides. I think many people on the pro-flouride side believe they are doing good.

    I personally oppose flouride and I hope I will be given the right to choose what to put in my body. To give you and Willamette Week a full picture, I am not a hipster, nor am I a Tea-Party member, or a Crazy Wacko. I am a thoughtful, high achiever dedicated to positively impacting the world.

    It is interesting the way FLUORIDE takes the attention from the true source of tooth decay: diet & dental hygiene. Just because someone got cavities and didn’t have fluoride doesn’t mean that no fluoride = cavities. I’ve worked in the Public Schools, and no one is talking about the French Toast breakfasts served with 30 grams of sugar.

    I joined WDS 2013 on a tight budget and was feeling a bit regretful after reading your article, but then I saw comments from all the free thinkers you attract, and I felt better.

  • ItalianGal says:

    I grew up in a fluoridated area. I had plenty of cavities growing up and was left with ugly spots on my front teeth caused by fluorosis. I’m with Europe on this, the majority of which does not taint the water with fluoride. Interestingly, many of these countries have lower incidents of tooth decay than the U.S. Seeing these results from the WHO has caused some to conclude the prevalence and accessibility of fluoridated toothpaste in the West makes it unnecessary to add fluoride to water. When the commission in Sweden made their final recommendation to not add fluoride to the water, one of the things they stated was “many people found fluoridation to impinge upon personal liberty/freedom of choice by forcing them to be medicated”, which I completely agree with. I also have concerns about environmental impact, but that’s another discussion :).

  • Geena says:

    This is the first time I wholeheartedly disagree with you! I’m surprised to hear that someone who questions conventional wisdom left, right and centre would so readily accept conventional medical wisdom. If you think the government and big pharma have our best interests at heart, think again! There are many reasons why we should be worried about fluoride in our water, and here are just a few: go to the “Natural News” website and search for “History of Medicine Fact #8”.

    Another great example is the „The China Study“ by Colin Campbell. He shows the devastating effect that adopting the standard Western diet with its sugar and refined carb overload has on people’s health, including their teeth. It’s not the missing fluoride in drinking water that causes cavities, it’s your diet! Our water is perfect and has been for millions of years. To add something to it to make it „more perfect“ reminds me of Nestle saying that their infant milk is better than breast milk. And just makes me very, very suspicious.

    I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I’d personally go with Mark Twain – “Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

  • Alison says:

    The ‘conventional opinion’ is absolutely wrong here. If your argument is based on comparison to other fluoride water states, it is pretty weak. If comparison is to be used, you should consider other inputs such as the high sugar consumption in the US and consider other parts of the world fluoride free such as many countries in Europe. If the lack of fluoride in the water is to blame for bad teeth, then how can Portlanders still have bad teeth when using fluoride toothpaste?

  • Matt Krause says:

    “what do you do when the unconventional opinion seems to be … wrong?”

    The point of having an unconventional opinion is not to be unconventional, it’s to be right (or some other word more nuanced if you like). So when the unconventional opinion is wrong, be conventional, if conventional is right.

  • Niel Malan says:

    Tooth enamel consists naturally of the mineral hydroxyapatite. The presence of acids can protonate the hydroxylapatite and lead to its breakdown. In the presence of fluoride the hydroxyl can exchange with fluoride, changing the hydroxyapatite into fluoroapatite. This is a much harder and acid-resistant material, ideal for teeth.

    Fluoride occurs naturally in some water sources, leading to communities with healthier teeth. In some water sources the amount of fluoride in the water naturally high, leading to dental and skeletal fluorosis when not only the surface of the teeth but also the structure of the bone gets fluorized, leading to weakening and deforming of the bones and teeth.

    Water-treatment professionals can measure and control the amount of fluoride in city water, so in general one can expect safe and beneficial levels of fluoride in fluoridated city water.

    Sadly, the fluoridation of water in the USA has been so politicized so long ago that nobody that has decided to be against fluoridation will ever change their opinion, and their ignorance of chemistry will not allow them to detect the disinformation.

  • Sarah says:

    First off, I would like to say that I love your blog.

    Main point: I have to respond to this article. My grandfather was one of the movers and shakers to get floride into water. He was a public health doctor, brilliant and witty. While he tackled many other issues (like requiring by law EVERYONE washes their hands at work, like doctors!), this is easily one of the most controversial that he ever worked on. A bit of history. My grandfather grew up and lived in New York City from the 1910’s till he died in 2007.

    The changes in medical science have exploded since the beginning of century. At the time he was working on it, not all toothpastes had fluoride in them (which is a double whammy, and I think, unnecessary). He also was looking specifically at cities where there were large groups of children and families who could not afford dental health care. Those groups would have at the time, needed the additional support to their health that they would not otherwise have.

    We need to look at the statistics of the city: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Look at the groups at risk and see if they have access to the basic health support all have. This subject needs to be updated to today.

  • Philip Powell says:

    Water is essential to life and tampering with our water supply always seems wrong. Tap water is viewed with suspicion by many, which is why bottled water is big business around the world. Tap water should be as ‘pure’ as possible. If I want to have the benefit of fluoride I can buy it in toothpaste and mouthwash and make that choice. Having no choice is unacceptable.

  • Andreas Boerner says:

    …it is never good to force people into their “luck”. Especially as we have known since quantum physics that there is no objective truth. So nobody in the world really knows whether flouridation is really good or bad. Every human being enjoys being treated as someone with self-efficacy. This is a self-fulfilling hypothesis. Treating peopole as if they were unable to care for themselves makes them into being unable to care for themselves. And that is the state the big industry wants us to be in.

  • David Galiel says:

    1) Rational public policy should be based on valid, accurate evidence.

    Without evidence, what is the basis to determine whether a given policy is helpful or harmful?

    2) The best way humans have found to collect valid evidence is via the scientific method, which has built-in ways of accounting for both human observer and methodological error, for ideological and religious bias, emotional response, ego, peer pressure, and wishful thinking. Only the scientific method relies on replicability, peer review, open publishing of, not only results but evidence-gathering methods – and only science has built in to its core a commitment to continuous improvement in consistency and accuracy of evidence-gathering methods.

    3) Once – and only after – valid, accurate evidence is available, should one explore the next question, which is: what public policy will best affect results in a way that is beneficial to the public.

    4) As non-expert citizens, our duty is to approach all claims with skepticism – *particularly* claims that appear to confirm our own biases and support our own beliefs. Public policy must not be based on individual beliefs, but on objective, universally available evidence.

  • Chris Gilbert says:

    I find it surprising that something which offers such a marginal health effect, of up to 20-40% reduction in tooth cavities is added to water in a way which it is not actually possible to control the dosage. When I say ‘marginal health benefit’ I mean that tooth cavities are rarely life threatening, if ever, and that they can be prevented easily by regular brushing.

    Lets compare this with say, the evidence suggesting magnesium in trace amounts reduces depression, or that statins are shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, which is one of the biggest killers in most developed countries. So why not put statins in the water supply? It could be justified by the amount of lives it would save, surely?

    I think what is interesting is not so much whether water fluoridation helps reduce decay or not – most studies show it has some effect. The question is why we need to perscribe it on such a scale, with no way of knowing how much people consume.

    Indeed, athletes drink more tap more, because they sweat more when exercising, and they also drink other drinks that contain fluoride. How on can we know how much anyone is getting of something, which is a neurotoxin in higher doses?

  • Brad Bennett says:

    If find the Occupy + Tea Party + yoga moms combo to be encouraging, fluoride or not.

    Chris, I wonder if there’s something else in Portland’s water and you have now lived there long enough to have had too much of it. This post reveals that your underlying belief is that unconventional wisdom is always right. You are surprised that this may not be the case and are struggling to deal with it. Of course unconventional wisdom is not always right. Just as conventional wisdom isn’t always right either.

    I hold very progressive beliefs in some regards and very conservative ones in others. I’ll bet you do too. I’m not inconsistent, I’m just human. I’m more complex than a “progressive” or “conservative” label or philosophy can embody.

    As a world traveler, I’d think you would be the first to say that our world would be a better place if we spent more time looking for ways we are similar vs. ways we are different. Imagine the incredible combos that would come together to change the world for good.

  • Mike says:

    Similar sentiments surround the debate around hydrofracking. Dean Awn of Columbia Law School just had a fascinating piece about it the Times, I believe.

  • Elle says:

    I used to think that fluoride was a good thing, but I’ve learned over the years that it is in fact an industrial run-off from aluminum production. They had to do something with it, right? Fluoride is only beneficial topically for teeth. There is no reason to add it to water sources if people are brushing their teeth with toothpaste.
    Naturally, people are going to have varying opinions on things, including health debates. Seeing that I fall on the side of the unconventional Portland protesters, and that I don’t agree with convention wisdom in many areas, I know that arguing with people is pointless. Opposing people usually just makes them dig in deeper. Everyone makes their own decisions about things, and most people will only change their minds given the right situation.
    I don’t agree with water fluoridation in the slightest. It’s just another poison, like many things in and on our food supply and in consumer goods. Either way, your article was interesting. Normally I agree with you on most things. But not this one.

  • Greg says:

    Well said. I too live in Portland and do so because I share many of the same political values but this fluoride debate seems like a no brainer for me. I am overwhelming for it.

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