So in my decision, I tried to stay away from the science.”
-- Ken Schaudt, mayor, Philomath, Oregon, on his vote to continue to ban fluoride from the town's water supplyFor some reason I've never figured out, most towns in Oregon refuse to add fluoride to their water supply, including Portland. (Schaudt said that only 26% of Oregonians drink fluoridated water.) Large groups of people here think it's toxic, or a government plot, or a mandate from the United Nations, or something. My sister had to buy fluoride drops to give to her babies, and now that they're older gives them fluoride tablets.
Not surprisingly, Oregon kids have some of the worst teeth in the country.
Philomath put fluoride in their water supply in 1980, and took it out this May. Several medical professionals recently spoke to the Philomath City Council, encouraging them to add fluoride. They voted against it in May, and just voted 6 to 1 to keep the ban.
Philomath is about six miles outside Corvallis, the home of Oregon State University. It is an old timber town that has seen an influx of people from OSU and from an Hewlett-Packard division in the town. The resulting culture clash in Philomath is the subject of a good documentary, Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon, made by a native son. The trailer is here; Wikipedia has a summary.
Here are some other gems from the Mayor's 1-hour presentation to the Council the other night:
“A lot of where we have gotten our information is from the internet.”Look, I don't know a lot about this subject and I don't really want to get into it. I believe the experts. Wikipedia has a summary of the controversy here. I do know the Institute for Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) released a report about fluoridation of water a few years ago, and, I think, recommended lowering the recommended level a little. Fine.
“I am going to be making statements that I don’t want you to take as the gospel truth.”
“Statistics are funny things. Numbers you can make do whatever you want them to do.”
“In researching this issue you can print a stack of paper as high as you wish on the good reasons … you can print the same size stack on why not to do it. I don’t want to choose between the two. I am not a chemist. I am not a scientist. Who am I to say which study is correct? So in my decision, I tried to stay away from the science.”
He called fluoride a “toxic agent,” said that the fluoride that the city uses is is “not pharmaceutical grade.”
“There really is no substance that is tolerated by everyone. If fluoride is healthful to the teeth, it should be applied directly to the teeth.”
His number one reason: “Freedom of choice is precious to all Americans. It’s value must be protected,” he said.
Councilor Bierek talked about the possible negative effects on the health of animals, such as fish in the streams.
“We aren’t doing our streams and waterways any good,” he said of the practice of adding fluoride to water. “We’re upsetting the natural balance of our planet.”
Councilor Buddingh said, “It’s not our right or our role to mass medicate. I think it’s unethical.”
Mayor Schaudt: “I think its a disservice for the public to vote on it. I'm not saying the voting public would be wrong ... but, the voting public would not do the amount of research and be as diligent (as the council has been).”
But don't give us this it's-a-big-conspiracy story, we're-mass-medicating-out-kids story, or other reasons dressed up to look scientific. Don't whine that it's all about your "freedom" when there are so many other huge issues at stake, like the fact that your government tortures American citizens (and others) or decides it can tap your phone without a warrant or the state of Oregon demands a copy of every prescription you fill. Don't ignore what professionals say because you'd rather do research on the Internet. And Mayor Schaudt, if you're going to make a decision, don't "stay away from the science."
Sometimes you have to wonder if Americans even deserve the benefits that scientific knowledge has brought. A day or two back in the Dark Ages would help tremendously in that regard.