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Score one for the antiscience cranks in Portland on fluoridation

Chalk one up for the forces of anti-science, quackery, and pseudoscience. The citizens of Portland, Oregon just handed them a huge victory the other day when they once again rejected water fluoridation in a referendum:

Fluoride supporters, it appeared, had everything going for them.

Five Portland city commissioners had voted to add fluoride to the city water supply. Health advocacy groups, and many of the city’s communities of color, lined up behind the cause. And proponents outraised opponents 3-to-1.

But none of that was enough. For the fourth time since 1956, Portlanders on Tuesday night rejected a plan to fluoridate city water, 60 percent to 40 percent.

Before I discuss why Portland could well have gotten it so very, very wrong, I’m going to say something that might come across as heresy to some proponents of science-based medicine, and that’s that this isn’t the end of the world. Unlike the case with the the anti-vaccine movement, the consquences of the antifluoridation movement are not illness, disability, and death. I realize that lately it’s been questioned whether the benefits of fluoridation are worth the costs and the battles. As for any public heatlh issue in which the population is being given a preventative treatment (such as vaccines or fluoridation), the issues surrounding the benefits and risks of water fluoridation are not always straightforward. I get it. I also get that public water supplies are a precious commodity. To justify putting something in them requires good evidence of safety and efficacy. However, what I don’t get are the overheated simplistic arguments that come out of the anti-fluoridation movement. As I’ve pointed out before, these days resistance to fluoride seems so…quaint. it’s so Cold War. Just ask General Ripper:

And you do know, don’t you, the true purpose of introducing foreign substances into our precious bodily fluids:

OK, OK, I know. I can’t help it. Whenever the topic of fluoridation comes up, I have a hard time not including those clips from one of my all-time favorite movies. Since it’s been two and a half years since I blogged about fluoride and the anti-fluoride movement; so I haven’t gotten to use them in a long time.

In any case, I understand that Portland didn’t have water fluoridation to begin with, and its citizens clearly don’t want it, given that they’ve rejected it four times over 57 years. That’s some long, sustained opposition there. And while it’s true that there is no scientific support for the vast majority of the arguments that were made against fluoridation (many of them were distortions, misrepresentations, and pure pseudoscience), the people of Portland won’t suffer any adverse consequences, because they never had water fluoridation to begin with. They just refused the benefits of fewer cavities and better dental health, which is their right. I think it was probably a bad decision, but it’s their right to make bad decisions and refuse a beneficial public health intervention. Apparently, Portlandians must like going to the dentist.

What bothers me about this decision is not so much that it was made but how it was made. I didn’t call this vote a victory for antiscience and quackery just because Portland voted against fluoridation. I called it a victory for antiscience and quackery because classic antiscience arguments appear to have won. It would be one thing if the decision had been made dispassionately based on the evidence and it was decided that the potential benefits weren’t worth it. Kyle Hill provides a very good description of the science of why from a public health perspective the case against fluoridation doesn’t hold water. The issue, of course, is that people don’t decide things strictly based on the science and the evidence. They might think that they do, but they don’t. Not even skeptics do. I realize that some of the cranks out there might not believe that I understand that, but I do. For instance, even though the pro-fluoridation forces had the stronger argument on a number of fronts, be it the safety of low level fluoridation or how since 1945 the fluoridation of drinking water has reduced tooth decay by 40-70% in children and tooth loss in adults by 40-60%, those arguments didn’t resonate. Neither did pointing out that fluoridation achieves these benefits with very little downside. What did resonate were campaigns about the “evils” of fluoridation, virtually all of which are canards, tropes, and just plain not true.

For instance, take a look at this antifluoridation poster:

tapwaterposter

Elswhere, on a Facebook page entitled Portlanders Against Fluoride, there is this picture:

553863_353644231377966_1378839242_n

Yes, that’s a Mike Adams cartoon you’re looking at there. Let’s just put it this way. If you’re using a ridiculous Mike Adams cartoon and don’t see the problem with doing so, you’re not science-based, and this group appears not to be science-based. Then there’s this TV ad:

Notice the fear mongering about fluoride, its characterization as not being of “pharmaceutical grade” and being the “byproduct of fertilizer manufacture.” This is a theme repeated in this commercial featuring Ed Begley, Jr.:

I wondered how many times he’d repeat the word “chemical,” although I must give the producers of this commercial props for saying, “We don’t help kids by adding more chemicals to their water.” Hmmm. One wonders if Mr. Begley is as horrified by the addition of chlorine to his drinking water. Or does he realize that water (H2O, dihydrogen monoxide) is a chemical. Scary! In any case, the reason I give sarcastic “props” is because it’s a very clever line that plays into people’s fears of “chemicals” and environmental contamination, the purest demagoguery. The ad finishes up with bold letters saying “Please vote no to fluoridation chemicals” and a link to cleanwaterportland.org. Chemicals? Fluoridation involves adding only one chemical. In any case, Clean Water Portland (CWP) is chock full of distortions used by antifluoridation cranks. There again is the old familiar “Fluoridation chemicals are unpurified industrial byproducts from fertilizer manufacturing, and are not the same as the fluoride in toothpaste.” In fact, reading the website, I’m hard pressed to find CWP referring to anything but “fluoridation chemicals” rather that fluoride or fluoridation. It’s repeated so often that it’s jarring to me and clearly meant to play on people’s fear of chemicals rather than on reason or evidence. Personally, I think that these slogans would be far more appropriate for the antifluoridation movement.

So what about this issue of fluoride being derived from “waste products” of fertilizer manufacture? The whole thing irritated me enough to look it up, and it didn’t take me long to find my way to the CDC webpage on fluoridation:

Most fluoride additives used in the United States are produced from phosphorite rock. Phosphorite is used primarily in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer. Phosphorite contains calcium phosphate mixed with limestone (calcium carbonates) minerals and apatite—a mineral with high phosphate and fluoride content. It is refluxed (heated) with sulfuric acid to produce a phosphoric acid-gypsum (calcium sulfate-CaSO4) slurry.

The heating process releases hydrogen fluoride (HF) and silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4) gases which are captured by vacuum evaporators. These gases are then condensed to a water-based solution of 23% FSA with the remainder as water.

Approximately 95% of FSA used for water fluoridation comes from this process. The remaining 5% of FSA is generated during the manufacture of hydrogen fluoride or from the use of hydrogen fluoride in the manufacturing of solar panels and electronics.

Since the early 1950s, FSA has been the chief additive used for water fluoridation in the United States. The favorable cost and high purity of FSA make it a popular source. Sodium fluorosilicate and sodium fluoride are dry additives that come largely from FSA.

So there are good reasons to use FSA as a source of fluoride, and the fluoride additives, as is pointed out elsewhere on the page, are not different from naturally occurring fluoride. It’s the same fluoride ion. Again, the antifluoride forces were playing on the public’s fear of chemicals and misunderstanding of chemistry to make fluoridation seem a lot more scary than it is. (Actually, it’s not scary at all.) As always, the dose makes the poison, and the levels used in municipal water supplies has a long history of safety. Indeed, as Kyle Hill points out, it’s a matter of regulating the concentration of fluoride ion in the water supply; in some “unfluoridated” water sources, the concentration of fluoride ion can be considerably higher than what is added to other water sources in the form of FSA.

Most of the rest of the arguments on the website are no better. For instance, they cite a truly bad “Harvard study” that is represented as showing that fluoridated water “lowers IQ,” but in reality shows nothing of the sort, at least not with respect to fluoridation of water. Indeed, associations between fluoride concentrations and lower IQ were only found at the highest levels of fluoridation, same as I noted for an earlier study purporting to have found a negative correlation between fluoride concentration in drinking water and IQ. Moreover, the claims that “more recent” science calls the benefits of fluoridation into question are just not true. Indeed, most of the canards used to attack fluoridation are either distortions or not true.

Such were the sorts of arguments flooding the airwaves and the phone lines in the weeks leading up to the election in Portland, and they had their effect. Given the history of Portland’s long skepticism of the benefits of fluoridation, it was an uphill battle to convince its citizens to approve a measure like this. Indeed, fact that it even got on the ballot in the first place shows how intense the opposition was in the first place. Such a citizenry was thus arguably more susceptible than most to these sorts of dubious, one-sided, and distorted arguments. Of course, that’s politics, as much as you or I might wish it were not so, and politics doesn’t run by reason, logic, and science, at least not most of the time. What that means is that emotion-laden, scary appeals to the evils of “fluoridation chemicals” and “fertilizer byproducts” and referring to fluoride as a “pesticide” or “rat poison.”

It is possible that times have changed and, as some have argued, the routine fluoridation of drinking water no longer makes as much sense as it once did. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, there were few sources of dietary fluoride, and adding it to the drinking water made a lot more sense, just as adding iodine to salt made sense for similar reasons. However, our water is a precious resource that everyone needs and uses. Adding something to it is not something to be done lightly, because it affects everyone. The advantage of that is that affecting everyone equally is very egalitarian. Indeed, that was one of the strongest arguments for fluoridation in Portland: Equity, in which the poorest children, the ones who tend not to have access to good dental care, get the same benefits of fluoridation as the affluent. The down side is, of course, that everyone is affected equally. If there are risks, such as dental fluorosis, the entire population is exposed to them. Given the greater access to fluoride-containing tooth care products and the use of fluoridated water to make many drinks and food products, fluoride is more available today.

An added curiosity to this whole story is the politics. As everyone knows, Portland is about as crunchy lefty as it gets in the United States, and, indeed, there were lots of stories about how the fluoridation issue had split the left in Portland. However, as the clips from Dr. Strangelove above show, traditionally back in the 1950s and 1960s, opposition to water fluoridation was traditionally the bailiwick of the far right fringe, the John Birch Society, and those who believed that fluoridation was a Communist plot to mass medicate the people of the U and thus contaminate their “purity of essence.” To some extent, it still is. The “health freedom” movement and various conspiracy websites such as Alex Jones’ website flog the fluoride beast on a regular basis. But in Portland, it was primarily the crunchy left that used similar arguments, namely to protect the purity of the water and, of course, their own “purity of essence” from “contamination.” They say that the farther you go out on the left or the right, the more they start to resemble each other. In this case, it was somewhat true.

In any case, public policy is best driven by science and evidence, where the best science informs the political process. In the case of Portland, from where I stand, the question of whether water fluoridation was good public policy was not decided that way in Portland.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

169 replies on “Score one for the antiscience cranks in Portland on fluoridation”

If the people of Portland are so fond of their excellent municipal water that they drink it in preference to individually packaged bottles trucked in from distant places, and by defeating this eminently sensible proposal they will continue to do so, this might not be such a bad thing. It doesn’t seem likely, though.

At least they put it to a vote. My home town of Windsor (right across the river from Detroit) voted to end fluoridation at the city council level. They didn’t even put it up to a popular vote. The council listened to cranks with youtube videos and discounted the science of every single public health official on their payroll. Really stunning.

With the advent of fluoridation of toothpaste there is less necessity for fluoridation of water supplies. However, such a conclusion is only an adage effect. Recent research has identified that failing to have sufficient fluoride in water has a disproportionate affect on dental health of the poorer groups in society. Poor children are less likely to have toothpaste available, and be less likely to use toothbrushes properly.

@Karl

My understanding is that the Portland city council voted to begin water fluoridation but that in response there was a popular movement to get the question on the ballot. Anti-fluoridation activists succeeded, and the result was this vote.

“Notice the fear mongering about fluoride, its characterization as not being of “pharmaceutical grade” and being the “byproduct of fertilizer manufacture.””

Maybe the pro-fluoridation advocates should have found a source of “food grade” fluoride, to attract support from the alties who claim vast benefits for “food grade” (35%) hydrogen peroxide.

The Left still has a ways to go to match the anti-science garbage promoted by right-wingers, but the Portland vote is a good first step (insert dubious smiley here).

Very true, Orac. I’m not sure about MI, but on the west coast you can get referendums on ballots and if they pass become law. As a Canadian living in Seattle, I found this a kind of charming form of direct democracy. But it, alas, sometimes leads to “free pizza for all!” type initiatives. In Canada, we tend to trust our elected governments to make the tough choices and avoid giving into popular delusions and err on the science. That’s why it was so surprising Windsor’s city council bucked that trend and listened to self-appointed cranks. But then Windsor city council has long had a history of chasing “free pizza” dreams.

So what about this issue of fluoride being derived from “waste products” of fertilizer manufacture?

You could equally argue that phosphate fertilizer is derived from the waste products of fluoride maunfacture.

It does make me laugh to see fluoride in water being portrayed as unnatural, when fluoridation aims for 1 mg/L and water can naturally contain up to 95 mg/L (in Tanzania), which is enough to cause serious fluoridosis.

Dental health problems can lead to much more serious problems, acting as a point of entry for pathogens, which can results in pericarditis, for example.

Anyway, fluoride is perfectly safe. It’s that flouride you have to watch out for.

Nice way to start a cogent argument: ridicule the opposition.

Maybe if we could only force bottled water suppliers to dose its pure water with fluoride, make soft drink manufacturers add it to the mix, even add it to beer and wine, we’d all be better off.

I lived in Oregon for 30 years, and one fact comes to mind; Oregon has a large population of fairly uneducated folks. The Coast Range, the Cascade Range, and most of eastern Oregon is very rural. Despite a reputation for high tech firms and Portland being a “thinking person’s town,” the state contains a large, not really well-informed population.

Chemicals in the water supply? You mean stuff like dihydrogen monoxide? Which, as we all know, is present in large quantities in tumors.

When one of these people decides to follow the no-chemicals mantra consistently and avoid water sources that contain DHMO, I’ll start listening. But I don’t expect any takers on this offer.

@Joe

In this particular case, the opposition deserved ridicule based on the poor quality of the arguments they made and their transparently obvious talking points designed to promote fear of “chemicals” rather than make reasonable points. I mean, holy crap! Look at the poster. And using a Mike Adams cartoon, as another group did? You’ve gone down the pike to woo-ville if you think Mike Adams ever makes anything resembling a reasonable scientific argument. Yes, ridicule is very much deserved, even if I am not as super pro-fluoridation as some of my allies.

Indeed, you might have noticed (although probably not, given the tone of your comment) that my support for water fluoridation is not dogmatic or even that strong. I think it’s still a reasonable strategy but recognize that there might be other strategies to achieve the same end. What I don’t like is how this issue was demagogued by the opposition by repeatedly using obviously focus group-tested phrases like “fluoridation chemicals” and “by product of fertilizer manufacture” (not to mention the even more deceptive comparison to pesticides).

Public policy should be informed by sound science; in this case it clearly wasn’t. Ed Begley, Jr. should be ashamed for taking part in such a nakedly propagandistic ad.

I’m disappointed in Ed Begley Jr., who’s very good at his job, which is being funny.

Mikey crows:
“fluoride-pushing doctors and dentists” who resorted to “outrageous lies and dirty tricks” and “reject real science” have lost.

Most fluoride comes from China ((shudder)) and is contaminated with ” lead, arsenic, cadmium”. No city tests for these poisons!

Supporters of fluroidation are ” life-hating people”, like “psychopathic criminals” in Batman movies (?), “mad scientists” and remind him of the abortion doctor who severed spinal cords of living babies.

It goes downhill from there.

@ Krebiozen:

re flouride:
Terrible stuff! It’s all white and pasty and sticks to your teeth. Plus it has a high glycemic index number. Not good.

Salt is full of dangerous chemicals, like sodium and chlorine, so perhaps Mike Adams can ban this from his food.

@ Renate:

Actually, he sells Himalayan pink salt or some other woo-topian panacaea.

Isn’t friggen ‘Celtic’ salt bad enough?

Interestingly, a good chunk of funding for the anti-fluoride movement apparently came from a Kansas real estate developer whose “Kansas Taxpayers Network” is a Koch affiliate that agitates for “limited taxes and government spending to create a free market environment.“ I’d argue that this explains a lot about the campaign’s misleading use of language, and also suggests that the target here was not fluoride per se but the concept of spending money to benefit public health. If so, any progressives who bought into this rhetoric may have shot themselves in the foot.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Portlanders love to stick it to The Man™ (or lizard) whenever possible. I’m just glad they didn’t have to bring out the giant, papier maché puppets-on-sticks. Those things are terrifying. Now, about those chemtrails . . .

Anyone know of any naturopathic dental schools in Portland? I think I’ve found my calling.

I remember not that long ago an anti-fluoridation commenter here was proudly waving about some documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, that gave the heavy metal content of the sodium fluoride concentrate that was added to the water somewhere in NZ or Australia (IIRC), and showing it was higher than the EPA levels allowed in drinking water. Despite several attempts by myself and others to explain that the stuff was diluted by a factor or several million, which reduced the heavy metal levels well below the legal limits, before it reached the consumer in tap water, they seemed unable to grasp the facts.

Maybe if we could only force bottled water suppliers to dose its pure water with fluoride, make soft drink manufacturers add it to the mix, even add it to beer and wine, we’d all be better off.

Given that most of these are made from municipal water supplies, there would seem to be little need.

Agreed on the problem being the methods, not the outcome.

I live in Portland, and I voted against fluoridation.

Not because I bought the crap the opposition was peddling about it being dangerous, or the ludicrous nonsense about it being “an industrial byproduct that contains lead and arsenic!!!” (… in such low concentrations that I doubt it’d be measurable in the water).

Indeed, those arguments made me want to vote for the measure just to stick it to the side that doesn’t understand science and is using cheap scare tactics.

But because it sure looked like a waste of money for a city that barely has enough to do the stupid things it already does, for little practical benefit, I still voted against it.

“but it’s their right to make bad decisions and refuse a beneficial public health intervention.”

I’m having a hard time reading on after this.

I raised my family of four children in Portland and lamented the lack of fluoridated water the whole time as did all my dentist and pedodontists. The little tablets and gels are a pain in the butt and there was a large expense of time and money involved in getting them all to the dentist for treatments. I was so happy when this went through. I did not think they could win on referendum–which seems to amount to a “health freedom” argument.

I am disappointed that you think this isn’t so bad. Maybe not in terms of total risk to life, but when 60% of a city full of well-educated people reject basic science in favor of fear and myth, I think it’s a problem. I’m very happy that my grandchildren live across the river in Vancouver, WA, which has had fluoridated water for decades. It’s very odd that the people of Portland don’t simply look across the river and see that the children there are not walking around suffering from all the crazy things being attributed to fluoride.

Hey, what’s up over at SBM? Hacked again? I can’t get through.

Aside from the health concerns with chronic exposure to a known poison and the dubious efficacy claims with internal consumption rather than topical application, medicating a population en masse without their consent is unethical. Even when voted on, no person has the right to force another to take a drug or to go through extra means to avoid exposure to the drug. I’m glad my city doesn’t fluoridate. I can’t remember the last time I had a cavity and I don’t have to constantly risk exposure just because some uppity bureaucrat wanted to “save the children.”

@APC

Aside from the health concerns with chronic exposure to a known poison and the dubious efficacy claims with internal consumption rather than topical application

Citations needed.

or to go through extra means to avoid exposure to the drug

So, you would say that city or state governments should not go through the extra means to reduce naturally occurring amounts of fluoride in those areas with high natural levels?

APC,
I’m interested in the language you used to explain your opposition to fluoridation:

health concerns… chronic exposure to a known poison… dubious efficacy claims… medicating a population en masse without their consent… unethical…force another to take a drug… constantly risk exposure

I’m not aware of any health concerns from water containing 1mg of fluoride per liter, it is only a poison at much higher doses. Describing fluoridation as “medicating” is also questionable, as it was the observation that people who live in areas where the water naturally contains fluoride have fewer cavities that led to the discovery that fluoride can prevent cavities. That makes the claim that fluoridation is “unethical” equally dubious – you could claim that a failure to fluoridate water would be unethical, given the scientific evidence that it is safe and beneficial.
No one is forced to take a drug, since fluoride is not a drug any more than chlorine in water is a drug, and no one is forced to drink tap water – filtration and bottled water are available for the concerned. Similarly, to claim that those in areas where water is fluoridated, “constantly risk exposure”, is hyperbole, since there is no evidence that the concentrations pose any risk at all. Do you drink tea? The cup of tea I am drinking as I write this may contain up to 9 mg of fluoride per liter, almost certainly more than the 1 mg/L that is the target of fluoridation.

medicating a population en masse without their consent is unethical

I no doubt mentioned this the last time this line was dragged out, but I am reminded of the Warrior Mommy at MDC who managed to give her kid a goiter by insisting on nothing but Sacred Druidic Salt.

This may be one anti-science move we’ll have to admit came predominantly from the liberal side of the spectrum although in the early days of fluoridation this was most definitely a cause celebre of the right wing.

I thought the western US already had high natural levels of fluoridation in their water supplies — or is that only the mountain states?

AllieP @39: The natural fluoridation level depends strongly on where you are. There may well be some parts of the West with naturally high levels of fluoride in the water, but no guarantees that Portland is one of them.

Portland has three potential water sources: two major rivers (the Columbia and Willamette) plus snowpack from the mountains immediately surrounding. (Much of the western US only has the local snowpack.) I don’t know which of these, or what combination, they actually use.

@Allie – there are locations where they have to take fluoride out of the water, because there is too much that is “naturally” occurring.

During twenty years in practice as a PA, I did a lot of pre-surgical testing. Because most of the patients I saw were going to be intubated for anesthesia, it was necessary to inspect their teeth closely. There was a distinct divide in the dental health of patients born before and after 1960, and a further divide between US-raised and foreign-raised patients born after 1960, and the differences were striking to me.
I know this is only anecdotal evidence, but 60 – 80 mouths a week makes for a hell of a lot of anecdotes over a few years. My experience removed any lingering doubts over fluoridation that I might have had.

@ Narad:

Is Sacred Druidic Salt sacremental Celtic salt?

There’s got to be a back story for this.
-btw- someone i know insists on Celtic salt…

@Joe

Most bottled water is from municipal sources, IE tap water. Since most soft drinks also use municipal water, I think it’s safe to say that most of it already has fluoride in it.

I don’t know which of these, or what combination, they actually use.

The Bull Run watershed, according to this, so I’m guessing mostly rain and snowmelt that supplies the Bull Run River.

Narad, I suspect this Warrior Mom was also a vegan, because it only takes a small amount of saltwater fish or other seafoods on an annual basis to load up the thyroid with adequate iodine.

Calgary dropped fluoridation after a plebiscite two years ago, and local pediatric dentists are reporting an increase in number and rate of cavity development in children. So disappointed in my city…

Pariedolius: I’m just glad they didn’t have to bring out the giant, papier maché puppets-on-sticks. Those things are terrifying.

You probably will not want to visit Minneapolis in May then.

Weirdly, I always thought anti-flouridation was only a conservative thing, but then my dad has a lot of stories about his John Bircher teacher.

Alcoholism can sometimes lead to an iodine deficient goiter (not that I’m suggesting this Warrior Mum was one). I saw a man with a huge goiter in Egypt – I was sitting in on a free clinic that an Egyptian doctor friend of mine in Luxor ran in his carpet and curio shop, for poor locals (a surprising number of professionals moonlight in the tourist trade there). The doctor told me afterwards that the man was an alcoholic, which accounted for a diet lousy enough to result in a goiter. This might seem odd in a Muslim country, but these were Coptic Christians.

As for unprocessed salt, I once worked out the amounts of other minerals in Celtic sea salt, and you will not be surprised that I found you would have to massively overdose on sodium chloride to get even a modest fraction of the RDA even of magnesium from it, much less other trace minerals.

I see black salt (it’s actually pink), aka kala namak, for sale in local South Asian stores, and was surprised to find out it is usually made synthetically from regular salt with added sodium sulfate, sodium bisulfate and ferric sulfate, which is then roasted with charcoal: not natural at all. I would hazard a guess that this is the “Himalayan pink salt” that Adams sells.

@ Krebiozen:

Adams sells solid blocks/ pieces of pink Himalayan salt such as that which is fashioned into lamps for hippie-ish households- which he sells- as well as bagged salt and a cutting board-like slab ( see NaturalNews store/ photos)..

The Celtic salt I am familar with is supposedly harvested by young sea sprites ** on the pristine coast of Brittany. Unfortunately one of my cohorts is using this because it makes him “feel better”. Well, it’s his one woo-ish belief.

I am familar with the kala namak. Local stores sell this and a white roughly crystalline salt .

** not really

Anecdote alert!

Where I live In SW Washington, all the mass media comes out of Portland. So, a few days prior to the referendum, I’m driving in my car and hear an anti-fluoridation ad on the radio. The only thing that stuck in my memory was “200 Doctors Oppose Fluoridation!” and the obligatory repetition of “TWO HUNDRED DOCTORS!!”. Umm, OK.

So, I’m curious – who are the 200 doctors? Well, according to the Portland media, it’s actually 200 “medical professionals”. OK – so who does that include? Well, according to the news clips from interviews at the City Council meetings, it’s doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, nurses, and others. Umm, OK. But, depending on how you interpret the stories, it’s either 200 medical pros or a group “representing” 200 medical pros. Never mind the clips of people claiming that fluoridation would include trace amounts of dangerous heavy metals….

I pretty much gave up at that point.

That said, I respect Sigivald #29’s point of view – perhaps the money required to fluoridate the water could be better spent elsewhere. And due props to public health professionals who always seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place…..

Never mind the clips of people claiming that fluoridation would include trace amounts of dangerous heavy metals….

I calculated that the heavy metals in the fluoride concentrate I mentioned above, when diluted, would be present in somewhat less than the levels naturally occurring in the tap water where I live in London (I happened to have those levels to hand). There seems to be a widespread lack of comprehension of the effects of dilution on dose on Planet Woo. We see it over and over.

I too wonder about cost-effectiveness of fluoridation when almost all toothpaste contains fluoride, except the stuff you buy in health food stores, of course.

@Renate: your “salt as poison” is way better than my “nutmeg as poison.” I may borrow it! (and for anyone who’s interested – just 5g of nutmeg can kill).

@APC – aah, the good old “it’s never been a problem for me!”

It ought to easy to show the actual numbers as to how much Portland’s rate of cavities and dental disease exceeds that of fluoridated cities. Why wasn’t this information front and center in the campaign?

I too wonder about cost-effectiveness of fluoridation when almost all toothpaste contains fluoride, except the stuff you buy in health food stores, of course.

I glanced at this a month ago, and while I didn’t save the primary references, it looked to be a nonnegligible benefit. (There was an earlier post with some context that never appeared despite repeated attempts, but I think that had more to do with Dr. Ellie.)

Way to go Portland. Didn’t think you had it in you. Note to self: fluoride, one more thing Orac knows nothing about.

I voted against the Flouridation not because of any one’s Anti-Flouridation tactics. I really don’t care what FUD either side of any argument has to offer. FUD is FUD and causes us to make poor decisions more often than not. I stuck to two principles I believe in –

First, I don’t believe in solving problems by creating new problems. I’ve done a fair amount of research and agree with most of the conclusions that flouride indeed aids in dental health in small doses. I put it on my toothbrush every day and I have very healthy teeth. I eat standard American fare that is very likely the cause for bad dental health. That’s my poor choice. Sugar and wheat are well documented as being bad for dental health, yet most of us eat more than we probably should. It makes more sense to me to fight for better food and awareness of the effects of eating poorly than to introduce flouride to combat the negative effects of poor nutrition.

Secondly, adding Flouride to the water is medicating without consent. It serves no other purpose than it’s dental prescription. Many people may not need or want to ingest flouride. Who are we to tell anyone their municipal water source forces them to? If Mother Nature puts it there, fine. But let’s not add it in. It may be a great idea according to some of the research out there. Not everyone agrees on the validity of the conclusions. Average people know how to promote their interests by fudging statistics, omitting data and drawing errant absolute conclusions. As such, they don’t trust what’s presented as science, particularly when there is bias of any kind from anyone who’s going to make a profit on it.

So, I’m not at all surprised that in a town like Portland, this didn’t pass. People here pride themselves in deciding for themselves and taking very little at face value. It’s a place where people like to ride the fence on issues and fall back on leaving things the way they are.

fluoride, one more thing Orac knows nothing about.

yeah right! with an undergrad chemistry degree and grad level biochemistry course, he obviously know nothing about fluoride. In your dream.

Alain

Ah, Sid, sticking his poster-child-for-phrenology head out of his Facebook bastion of censorious asshattery once again.

Wichita, KS voted exactly the same was back in November. Same arguments, fewer celebrities. It didn’t seem to make much of a ripple in the news other than locally. But then again, ignorance of science in Kansas isn’t particularly newsworthy (sadly).

Once upon a time, I had to make up water fluoridation standard solution for a county water authority.

Step 1 : Measure out a couple of tonnes of deionized water, on the VERY BIG balance.
Step 2 : Get out the smallest, enclosed (to stop air currents) micro-balance. Measure out a couple of grammes of Sodium Flouride, making sure that you don’t lose it by breathing and/or sneezing.
Step 3 : Tip (2) into (1). Watch the miniscule amount of powder vanish into a minor ocean of water.
Step 4 : Stick in the mechanical stirrer. Go for a 2-hour lunch.
Step 5 : Decant into 25-liter containers. Put labels on. Send to dispatch..

A significantly easier job than, for instance, making up 50% sulphuric acid in similar quantities (warning: 1000-l vessel may jump a foot in the air on mixing..)

Step 3 : Tip (2) into (1). Watch the miniscule amount of powder vanish into a minor ocean of water.

Call it Homeopathic Fluorine and everyone is happy!

Call it Homeopathic Fluorine and everyone is happy!

I think they would call it Nat Flu 3C.

It would only have been homeopathic if I’d kicked the side of the vessel a few times with my steel-capped work boots (‘pedes surcussum’ according to a phrase I’ve just made up)

Infuriatingly Moderate @53: That sounds a lot like the letter circulated a year or two ago that was signed by more than a hundred “NASA scientists” who claimed global warming was bogus. It turned out the signers were almost all engineers; only one had a title which gave any indication that he might be doing climate research (and no guarantee that climate research was actually his field). It’s a common tactic for pseudo- and anti-science types to inflate the credentials of their spokesmen.

Yay for Portland! I understand the benefits of fluoridation, but I don’t see why everyone has to drink the shit. Put in in toothpaste & mouthwash, but please not in drinking water! I grew up in a city that fluoridated the water, and despite regulations of exactly how much fluoride is optimal, the city somehow managed to regularly exceed that limit by an unhealthy margin. My sisters & I all have chalky white bands on our teeth from fluoridosis, and I have an incisor that just flaked off all it’s enamel in one chunk. I have had far more cavities and dental work than either of my parents has had in their entire lives. Thanks to the miracle of fluoride!
In short, there are a lot of reasons to be anti-fluoride than just anti-scientific woo. It’s ignorant and blinkered to pretend that there aren’t.

This is happening all over now, and it’s not going to stop. The anti-fluoride movement is very well-organized, and their arguments against fluoride are very convincing. In our town, a councillor was elected on that very platform, and it was understood that she traded votes behind the scenes. The council put on a good show for the public allowing a public forum with both sides being presented, but absolutely refused to put it to plebiscite and it was voted out within a matter of weeks. The public health side barely had a chance to mount a defence. The chemical name they used in our debate was always “hydrofluorosilicic acid”, and a facebook group allowed them to stay on message. I blogged about how I got involved (reluctantly) here:
http://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/it-takes-a-village-skepticism-in-this-small-town/

and suffered personal and professional attacks afterwards. Overall, I felt the same was as Orac – the wording of the motion that was put forward was so full of pseudoscientific nonsense that I couldn’t sit back and let it go unchallenged. But I wish I had.

Thanks for that utterly useless, citation free anecdote, Artor!

Artor: I have had far more cavities and dental work than either of my parents has had in their entire lives.

I raise you one anecdote: I live in a community that flouridates..and I have never had a cavity in my life.

I have had far more cavities and dental work than either of my parents has had in their entire lives.

I don’t think anyone has suggested that fluoridation is a substitute for oral hygiene. (Although I think I now recall the 0.1 ppm saliva level that caused me to think that a 0.02 ppm boost from a steady intake through the day was nonnegligible.)

What do you put in your mouth, Artor, and when? What do you do about it afterward? Any other concerns? (I’ve got both anti-Ro and anti-La, so I have reason to worry.)

@ Artor: How about identifying the city where you grew up and fluoride was added to the water that resulted in fluoridosis?

Are you certain Artor, that you or your mother weren’t prescribed an antibiotic that caused staining and destruction of your tooth enamel?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetracycline_antibiotics

@ Bogeymama: *Someone* left a message for you on your blog. 🙂

I can’t believe someone would drink a cup of fluoride laced water thinking it’s going to help the teeth. Man that is the most childish, stupidest thing imaginable! Just how is this magic fluoride gonna pass though you and go only to your teeth, not bones, not brain, not anywhere else, just the teeth?!? Man that is numb!!!

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