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What's happening with the ongoing fluoride debate
Updated: 5/23/2013 11:30:01 AM
 

Examining the ongoing fluoride debate

Residents in the city of Portland, Ore., are in a heated debate over whether to fluoridate their community's water, and this has opened up a national discussion about water fluoridation in the U.S. In the past, Portland had a policy that the city's water supply would not contain added fluoride - a chemical added to water in many communities to help improve residents' dental health. However, the Portland City Council voted to reverse this policy, which has caused a great deal of controversy in the town. 

In light of this debate, the Washington Post recently published an article with a history of the fluoride debate in the U.S. This is hardly the first time that people have been torn over whether to add fluoride to their water supply, despite the fact that a number of dental health experts have claimed that this is a simple, inexpensive way to potentially dramatically improve the teeth and gums of adults and children alike. 

An ongoing battle
According to the Post, the debate over community fluoridation began in 1945, when the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first to add fluoride to the water. This was meant to be an open public health experiment to see if the dental health of people in the city would improve. However, scientists who implemented this fluoridation plan knew that it would be decades before they would have an answer to whether the fluoride was working. Regardless, public health officials in Wisconsin began calling for state-wide fluoridation almost immediately after Michigan. 

The news source pointed out that almost the entire medical establishment supports community water fluoridation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called it one of the top 10 greatest accomplishments of the 20th century.

Conversely, there are many who oppose community water fluoridation who have claimed that research has shown that consuming large amounts of fluoride - around 4 milligrams per liter - may be harmful to human health. However, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency have recommended maintaining 0.7 milligrams per liter in community water supplies. 

The scene in Portland 
According to a poll conducted recently by the Portland Business Journal of more than 1,800 residents, people were evenly split on the issue of community water fluoridation. 

The Business Journal has been keeping track of all of the media coverage of this issue, and found that famous Portland residents have been weighing in on this issue. For example, The Wall Street Journal spoke to Zia McCabe, keyboardist and vocalist for the Dandy Warhols, a Portland rock band, who said that after speaking to her mother and the band's drummer about research they had conducted regarding water fluoridation, she has determined that it is not right for the city. However, Colin Meloy, member of the popular Portland band The Decemberists, has come out on the side of water fluoridation, and has expressed his dislike for an anti-fluoride documentary called "An Inconvenient Tooth." 

While celebrities are certainly entitled to their opinions, it's important that Portland residents who are planning to vote on whether to fluoridate their water get their information from credible, scientific sources. Of the 30 largest cities in the U.S., Portland remains the only one that does not add fluoride to its water to help improve the dental health of its residents. 

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide in Australia found that fluoride in drinking water may not only help strengthen children's developing teeth, but those of adults as well, even if they did not spend their childhoods in communities with fluoridated water. 

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