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:


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


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 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.


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The will of the voters in Portland, Oregon has endured for more than fifty years, for the fourth time rejecting fluoridation of the city's tap water in a ballot referendum.  On Respectful Insolence, Orac writes "public water supplies are a precious commodity. To justify putting something in them…

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.

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.

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.


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).

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Fred Rickson (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink


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.

By palindrom (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

@ 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.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

Why don't we add fluoride to all bottled drinks instead?

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

@ Denice Walter
So mr. Adams sells dangerous chemicals? Shame on him.

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.

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

By SkepticalSlug (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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 . . .

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

"factor of several million" dammit.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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."


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?

Oh, and for those interested in fluoride content of bottle beverages, here's a study.

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.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By DuaneBidoux (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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

@ 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...

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

what do you expect, I'm an atheist.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink


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.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

@ 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

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.....

By Infuriatingly … (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

@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!"

By Christine (the… (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Sid Offit (not verified) on 23 May 2013 #permalink

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.

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

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.


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..)

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

Call it Homeopathic Fluorine and everyone is happy!

I think they would call it Nat Flu 3C.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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)

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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:…

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.

By Bogeymama (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

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?

@ 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!!!

Colin...seriously? Did you ever take a biology class and pass it? How does the Fluoride naturally in food and water find it's way to the teeth. How does Iron make to the hemoglobin. How does Phosphorus find it way to the DNA. The same way it always has. By the magic of Leprechauns of course!

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 24 May 2013 #permalink

Oh dear Artor, it helps sometimes to check a few facts before embarassing yourself on-line. The symtoms you describe are not those of dental flourosis.

Colin, it is really quite simple chemistry. You don't have to drink the water to get the effect, just rinse your teeth in it. The fluoride ion replaces the hydroxyl in hydroxyapatite in your tooth enamel. Fluoride is a stronger Lewis base than hydoxyl ion.


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?!?

It isn't, but it really doesn't matter, as the dose is so low in the case of fluoridation. Fluoride in water is the most natural thing in the world, though nature isn't as careful as municipal water authorities, and fluoride is present in tea at even higher concentrations.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

Orac or any of his people dont jump on me I just want to ask a couple questions.

First the Smile data survey usually comes in February but they didnt make it public this year until a reporter from a local news station filed 2 FOIA requests to release the survey. The data showed that Portland improved over 10% from '07 and they didn't calculate the difference between fluoridated counties and non-fluoridated counties. But the local news station did the calculationss and it was nearly the same for non and fluoridated schools and Portland was lower then any other county. So if fluoride was that good wouldn't their be a big difference and why was Portland lower then fluoridated areas? Why would it take so many FOIA requests to get them to release the data? Its logical to think that they didn't want this to get out before the vote.…

And second the city council had secret closed door meetings with lobby groups then passed a resolution approving water fluoridation. Why the closed door secret meetings and not a public discussion? Reminds one of the secret closed door meetings in the corrupt scum in Washington.

Wheres the science in that? If the science was so conclusive then there wouldnt be a need for secret meetings and agencies withholding their own studies until someone actually filed 3 FOIA requests to release it.

If there was 1 study done that showed fluoride associated with lower IQ in children why would you even want that stuff anywhere near the children? In fact there has been 36 studies that have shown fluoride reduces IQ in children. BUT NO AGENCY IN THE U.S. HAS DONE A FOLLOW UP TO THOSE 36 IQ STUDIES. Why not prove them wrong? Why are you willing to risk a child's brain for slightly improved teeth?

Please no personal attacks or insults I am just trying to have an open discussion on this subject. Thank you for your time I know you are busy man.

The data showed that Portland improved over 10% from ’07

So, the article takes a 5.6% improvement in Multnomah County, calls it 10%, and you translate it to "over 10%" in Portland?

@ Question Mark*

In fact there has been 36 studies that have shown fluoride reduces IQ in children.

Citations needed.

I think ? is getting his "information" from this alarmist website, the Fluoride Action Network:

Of course there are at least a dozen other extremist sites that refer to this myth, not to mention places like NaturalNews and Alex Jones's sewer.

I'm surprised none of them mention the fallacy that Hitler introduced fluoride into the water supply to keep German citizens docile and compliant.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

I have a bit of a problem with ?'s statement:

"And second the city council had secret closed door meetings with lobby groups then passed a resolution approving water fluoridation. Why the closed door secret meetings and not a public discussion? Reminds one of the secret closed door meetings in the corrupt scum in Washington."

Here from the Oregonian is an article about those "meetings" (which were NOT meetings of the entire City Council, but rather meetings with dentists, health officials and others concerned with childrens' dental health)…

Will "?" clarify what (s)he meant by that statement and will "?" locate for us the many individual meetings with anti-fluoridation individuals/groups with Council members?

Also, I'm not quite "getting" what "?" is complaining about...the fluoridation referendum was defeated, once the mail-in referendum votes were counted.

0I was curious about the picture painted in the "Before you vote" article that ? linked to, which claimed that tooth decay in fluoridated areas is almost the same as that in non-fluoridated areas. How did they control for income, which is one of the strongest predictors of tooth decay in children? Looking at their figures (they helpfully provided a link to an Excel spreadsheet), I see that they didn't.
I added the median family income for each county to their figures. The fluoridated counties had an average income of $61,012.17, and the unfluoridated counties $74,905.00 - not very surprising when you consider that the counties with the highest tooth decay were likely to have been targeted for fluoridation, which would have been those with the lowest income.
Instead of the counties with lower incomes having substantially more tooth decay as you would expect, they actually had less. It seems very likely that fluoridation is responsible for this difference.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

Water should not be treated with ANY chemical, I don't care if it's just phosphoric acid from some rock or if it's waste from a fertilizer plant, the concept of this whole 'fluoridate our water for health benefits' is inherently WRONG -- and it is no surprise that you brainwashed cranks believe all the lies and false ideas spewed by the corporation/government

The government should not have anything to do with our health and what we put into our bodies. Food, Nutrition, Medicine, and Water all should be protected FROM the government - which is now more like a corporate-scam, a cancer in our society.

By Truth-Speaker (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

@ Carolyn: That is great news and an example of excellent journalism. Thanks for sharing.


Food, Nutrition, Medicine, and Water all should be protected FROM the government – which is now more like a corporate-scam, a cancer in our society.

You might want to loosen that aluminum foil hat. Well, don't we all know that cholera makes you stronger, and everyone loves the taste of anti-freeze in the cold medicines.


So we should stop disinfecting municipal water supllies with chlorine or chloramine, so our household tapds can supply us with a steady stream of pathogens, viruses, bacteria, e-coli and fecal matter? So we can all get typhoid fever and/or cholera?

And drug companies should be allowed to sell us anything they want without any regulations, labelling, testing, warnings or quality control?

Food manufacturers and supermarkets should be allowed to package anything they want and call it anything they want?

I don't want to live on whatever planet you live on. You and your people will have a lifespan of a couple of years.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

True story: in my city of Montreal there was a problem at the main water treatment facility this week and the household water supply to 1.3 million people was undrinkable for two full days. It was a near crisis situation as schools, daycares and hospitals had to curtail normal operations, people were fighting over the last bottles of water at the supermarket, restaurants had to close and even Starbucks couldn't serve coffee.

I'd hate to see how we'd get by for a longer period without clean, safe, disinfected treated with chemicals water flowing from our taps.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

Truth-Seeker, you state that "The government should not have anything to do with our health and what we put into our bodies. Food, Nutrition, Medicine, and Water all should be protected FROM the government – which is now more like a corporate-scam, a cancer in our society."

That's because raw (unpasteurized) milk sold on an Oregon dairy farm is so good for you, eh?…

"The Oregon farm whose raw milk is the suspected source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 19 has now been associated with two more foodborne illness victims.

Health officials reported Monday that two adults who had consumed raw milk from Foundation Farm had contracted infections from two different pathogens - Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium....."

".....One of the two most recently sickened Foundation Farm patrons had continued to drink raw milk from the farm after the Oregon Public Health Division warned consumers that the milk had been potentially linked to an E. coli outbreak last month, said Keene.

'A lot of people have quite an attachment to this product,' he notes.

In that outbreak, which may still be ongoing, four children ages 1, 3, 14 and 14 were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infection that causes kidney failure. According to the most recent information, all four are still in the hospital.

'Some of them are fighting for their lives,' says Keene."

“The government should not have anything to do with our health and what we put into our bodies...

I guess Vioxx should still be available. After all, wasn't it a government agency that forced it off the market?

Do people like Truth-Speaker ever think anything through before they post nonsense?

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

OK, my Vioxx example was wrong: it was voluntarily recalled. But you get my point. Every year the FDA in the US issues warnings and recalls dozens of hazardous food products and drugs to keep citizens safe, and alive.

In Canada the Food Inspection Agency recently closed down a major meat processing plant for weeks due to listeria contamination. Restaurants are inspected by local authorities regularly to make sure safe food handling practices are being upheld. Etc. etc.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 25 May 2013 #permalink

Narad @ 28

Unfortunately, most of the bottled water in Kiwi land is derived from the municipal supply of Putaruru. Apparently 3% of the town (note for northern hemisphere readers: town=village) water supply provides the basis for 60% of Kiwilands' bottled water, soft drinks and (shock, horror) beer.

No fluoridation, and I can't find the concentration of natural fluoride at the spring.

The town pipes are now getting so old that chlorine may need to be added to ensure the safety of the towns drinking water.

Anecdotal, but I've seen hundreds of pre-school children from the area needing dental clearance for caries. Maybe they drink C--- rather than milk?

Down the road a little, where they fluoridate, much lower levels of caries in children.

**** tablet. Please add the appropriate punctuation.

Flogging a book that is probably long out of print -- The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible, by Otto Bettmann (the Bettmann Archive guy.)

>>Drinking milk had its own pitfalls. It was common knowledge that it was diluted. "A water shortage would put the milkman out of business," was a common joke. To improve its color since it came from diseased cattle, it was common to add molasses, chalk or plaster of Paris. Believe it or not, some cows were so enfeebled from tuberculosis that they were milked while raised on a hoist to remain "milk-able." Some cows were fed mash and whiskey slops, which made babies tipsy and often sick.

None of your long-winded arguments hold water. If people want fluoride they can choose the appropriate product. What people don't want is having it shoved down their throats. End of discussion. It's called free choice dude.

By Marilyn Talia Dahl (not verified) on 26 May 2013 #permalink

It’s called free choice dude.

So produce your own water, "dude."

@Marilyn Talia Dahl - and what is your opinion of the campaigns mentioned above which used untruths and half truths to get people to vote against a cost effective public health measure?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 26 May 2013 #permalink

Carolyn -- that, interestingly enough, was the impetus for Gail Borden's invention of Eagle Brand condensed milk. He was on a ship bound for the US from England and several children died after drinking contaminated milk.

As someone who spends most of her off-duty time in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I can tell you that I sure wouldn't want to visit, let alone live there.

One might recall the Our Gang short "Mush and Milk," in which even the children were familiar with the plaster of Paris routine.

@Marilyn Talia Dahl
You may have not noticed, but even in the main post it is admitted that there are valid reasons both for and against fluoridation of the water. The fear mongering about poison and all that bad jazz is not part of those valid reasons.

There is no one and ultimate answer to the question of water fluoridation, even if in some places circumstances would support one option over the other. Still, even if careful analysis of potential benefits and costs would indicate that Portland does not need water fluoridation and is better off without, it is still possible to be right for the wrong reasons.

Example inspired by few posts above, about some nasty waterborne diseases. Imagine there is source of untreated drinking water. Drinking it straight from the source carries risk of contracting some kind of disease. If someone told you not to drink that water cause it was cursed by the Shaman, following the advice would protect you from contracting disease, sure. But would it validate the Shaman's power to cast curses?

In the same vain, yet with much more vague answer of the potential risk/benefit ratio, Portland fluoridation referendum might have been right to reject the project (or might have been wrong), this does not validate the stories promoted by the crank part of opposition.

By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 26 May 2013 #permalink

Ooooh, evidence by video! Larry Rowe, how did you know it was our favorite kind of data, to laugh at?

Most European countries do not put fluoride in their drinking water. (

Their decay rates are declining…

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control listed water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century;[14] in contrast, most European countries have experienced substantial declines in tooth decay without its use, primarily due to the introduction of fluoride toothpaste in the 1970s.[3] The use of topical fluorides (such as in toothpaste) to prevent caries among people living in both industrialized and developing countries may help supplant the need for fluoridated water.[3]

Perhaps we should mandate reading to the self appointed defenders of science in this blog.

By The Truth Fairy (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

Truth Fairy:

How do the current rates of dental caries in Europe compare to the current rates in the US? Your argument doesn't really hold a lot of water if the rates are 'declining' but still far higher than the US (hint: they are). 5 minutes of hunting on the CDC website reveals this to be the case:

Re: The Great Culling

Hilarious: Mikey Adams is one of the contributors!

Secondly, it's nothing more than a Zeitgeist-style crackpot eugenics/depopulation conspiracy theory film:

The "Great Culling" of the human population has quietly begun. Covertly, insidiously, mercilessly, a global depopulation agenda has been launched. As this plays out, the vast majority of the human race will be removed from the gene pool. Genetically annihilated. Will you and your genetic lineage survive?

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

AdamG. Yes it is higher but improving. Although your link doesn't show it as it is for the US only. (A 6 minute search would have shown that)

There is no doubt that fluoride reduces the chances of getting a cavity. That is not in dispute.

The main argument is that the Europeans have weighed the risks vs the benefits and concluded that it is not worth the risk. Can their assessment (and Japan's) simply be hand waved away as the act of "a bunch of anti science types" as some claim?

Why mandate something that an entire continent has issues with? Let people weigh the evidence and decide for themselves.

By The Truth Fairy (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink


Do the producers of The great Culling know that Big Storage is behind it all?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

The Truth Fairy - It's perfectly reasonable to believe that different localities will look at the evidence and make different assessments of the desirability of fluoridating the municipal water supplies.

Why mandate something that an entire continent has issues with?

You'll note that in this case, nobody mandated that fluoridation would be done in Portland. The concern, though, is that several major campaigns did not rely on the facts to make their cases.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

Mephistopheles O'Brien -

- The concern, though, is that several major campaigns did not rely on the facts to make their cases.

Fair point.

By The Truth Fairy (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

From the movie trailer................ "The Reptilian Overlords strike a blow against humanity. The “Great Culling” of the human population has quietly begun. Covertly, insidiously, mercilessly, a global depopulation agenda has been launched. As this plays out, the vast majority of the human race will be removed from the gene pool. Genetically annihilated. Will you and your genetic lineage survive?"

Oh yeah, don't forget......."it's a cookbook!"

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

The Great Culling? I always wondered how that works, with life expectancy increasing, infant mortality decreasing, infectious diseases being wiped out and age-corrected mortality rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases falling around the globe. It doesn't look much like a Great Culling to me, quite the opposite, unless it is a truly fiendishly cunning plan to lull us all into a false sense of security, of course...

As for fluoride, it's the portrayal of water fluoridation as some hideously unnatural chemical contamination that annoys me. Fluoride in drinking water is the most natural thing in the world.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

The Truth Fairy,

Why mandate something that an entire continent has issues with? Let people weigh the evidence and decide for themselves.

Europe doesn't always make the right decisions (I'm in the UK lest you think I'm prejudiced), and neither do the people, who may be misinformed or scared by people spreading misinformation. Look at how reluctant Europe has been to adopt GM foods, with far more toxic pesticides and herbicides used as a result, through a misguided concern for the environment. I think it's best to get specialists with no conflict of interest to decide these things, but politics often seems to intrude.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

Truth Fairy, a little truth for you. Several European countries put fluoride in salt. Therefore, these countries typically do not also add it to water.

Kelly M. Bray - I have it on good authority from Lord Draconis (may his scales ever glisten) that the Great Culling won't begin until after,... oops, said too much already!

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

@Truth Fairy
In my country (which lies in Europe and even is part of EU) we don't have fluoride in water. We do something much more convoluted, short term and inconvinient (well, at least we did back when I was in school... I guess it'd be Junior High or something like that, the first one in three tier system). We have children of certain ages regularly brush their teeth with highly concentrated fluoride solution. Or maybe we have that no longe, I must admit I am out of touch on the matter. Anyway, what I am rambling about is, that lack of fluoride in water mains is (at least in the hellhole I live in) probably more a matter of costs and not due to belief fluoride will kill as a part of NWO depopulation program (silly conspiracy theorists, we here at NWO don't want to depopulate you, who'd want to lessen the number of his unwitting slaves?).

@Krebiozen #115 - as always, difference comes from the intent. Naturally occuring fluoride is A OK, because it is from Mother Nature who love humanity and only gives her blessings to the special, made in God's very image us. On the other hand fluoride added by humans is tainted by evil intent and Reptillian mind control drugs. I'm sure Masaru Emoto would tell you that water crystals from sources that have natural fluoride are pretty and from those fluorided by man are images of madness inducing horror second only to the Great Old Ones.

By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 27 May 2013 #permalink

Fluoridated cookie, please.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 28 May 2013 #permalink

It's interesting to see how far off the mark a nonresident writer can be: first, he begins by calling people names and claiming that they're "anti-science" - in other words, the usual spittle-laden Leftist scary stream of conciousness that passes for argument. He goes on to ignore a number of salient facts: pro-fluoriders first lobbied Portland City Council in secret. When that little subterfuge was exposed and the matter went on the ballot, they ran television, radio, and print ads non-stop here, spending nearly a million dollars in the process. They also enlisted paid trolls from North Carolina and Florida to plaster the online comments sections of our media with pro-fluoride propaganda while following the paradigm that this writer adheres to: calling opponents unscientific oafs.

Yeah, we're all a bunch of ignorant hillbillies here, as one guy commenting here from Arizona notes - although the cpu running the system he used to hurl his slur was likely engineered and fabricated here.

Now, opponents - contrary to the idiotic claims of the author of this little story - didn't "flood the airwaves" with anti-science drivel; they were a local, grass roots organization with little funding. They sent out two mailers, and I believe they ran one ad. No, it was the pro-fluoride side that flooded us with propaganda. Frankly, nobody here believed that they were spending all that money out of a purely driven desire to Save The Children™.

No, that seems pretty unlikely - and even the rabid Left here thought so. To give you all a sample of the actual situation here on the ground in Portland, Oregon, you have to ignore the pontificating from far afield and take a look at what actually happened: Our water, from the Bull Run watershed, is the purest water in the nation. Our City Council, following intense and secret lobbying by pro-fluoride interests, unanimously voted to introduce it into our water supply. A grass-roots group was formed in opposition, and they circulated a petition calling for a public vote. They gathered 40,000 signatures in about a month.

The only people permitted to vote, however, were Portland residents; tens of thousands of people in 13 other cities which purchase water from Portland's Bull Run supply were left without a voice, and many of them opposed fluoridation. All were perturbed at having no say whatsoever regarding the addition of "preventive" medication into their water.

Despite the million-dollar campaign by the pro- side, Portlanders voted 60%-40% against it.

And despite all of the insinuations to the contrary expressed here, it wasn't a bunch of tighty-righties who pulled off such a resounding defeat; Portland has been run entirely by Democratics for nearly 40 years. My next-door neighbors are as rabidly Left as they come, yet they had a yard sign opposing fluoride.

In point of fact, absent significant opposition from Left, Right, and Independents, the defeat of fluoridation simply could not have occurred.

By the way, our 22-year-old daughter was born and raised here in Portland. She has never had a cavity.

By MaxRedline (not verified) on 29 May 2013 #permalink


although the cpu running the system he used to hurl his slur was likely engineered and fabricated here.

And assembled in China. Did you ask them too, dimwit?

Leftist scary stream of conciousness [...] Yeah, we’re all a bunch of ignorant hillbillies here [...] even the rabid Left here [...] Democratics (ed: WTF?) [...] rabidly Left as they come, yet they had a yard sign opposing fluoride. (ed: thank you for letting us know you didn't even read the damned post, idiot)

Let me guess, precious... libertarian?

By the way, our 22-year-old daughter was born and raised here in Portland. She has never had a cavity.

WOW! Well, from your well-planned, well-documented and double-blind study on the effects of fluoridation of drinking water (n=1, and from your asinine entitlement I feel it fair to assume provided with high-end fluoride toothpaste from the age of 2 or so), I am convinced!

spittle-laden Leftist scary stream of conciousness

Orac is discreet vis-a-vis political alignments so I guess it must be the emphasis on facts and rationality, and the opposition to stupidity, that identify "Leftism".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 29 May 2013 #permalink

"You Fluoride-Lovers Should Put a Tube of FluorideToothpaste Up Your Asshole For A Fluoride Enenma" and no calling the Paramedics after when start to feel a little strange,it's perfectly"


You may say you're in Heaven but please go to Hell.


By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 30 May 2013 #permalink

If your concern is the possible adverse effect of exposure to flouridated water, shouldn't you be recommending "You Fluoride-Lovers Should Put a Tube of [Flouridated Tap Water] Up Your A**hole For A [Tap Water} Enenma"?

What about flouride toothpaste? Should people be using it if water is flouridated? Where are the dosage amounts and recommendations? What is the optimum amount of flouridated water to drink daily for protection? Not a lot of science involved if science = data.
Iodine = what about the anti-science cranks trying to lower our intake of salt and putting us at risk of iodine deficiency (much more serious consequences than flouride "deficiency")?
Whether you're pushing some iodine-free hippy salt, or you're a white-coat trying to scare people off salting their food, you're just as much a crank in my book, with the latter crowd having less excuse for ignoring and misrepresenting the science.

By George Henderson (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

@MSII - I suspect "JESUS" might be Rob Hood/Medicien Man, posting after he'd imbibed an extra-strong batch of bathtub moonshine. The fixation on a certain lower-body orifice is the giveaway.

By Edith Prickly (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

Definitely "Medicien Man" a.k.a. Rob Hood from Eupora, Mississippi. The butt terminus got tanked up on his rotgut booze and is posting here.

San Diego is next on the donkey train to get fluoride in its water supply. The lobbiests are working overtime on the mayor and city council. If it really were "good" for us, there'd be no need to lobby. But I digress. On a personal note, I don't give a rat's behind about so-called poor kids not being able to afford toothpaste. The problem is too much sugar (candy, soft drinks, etc.) in their diets. Leave my drinking water alone. It's got too much crap in it already (Rx drugs, run-off, and the Burpee wannabe's who overspray their lawns & gardens).

"The lobbiests are working overtime on the mayor and city council."

There's a "fluoride lobby"? Who are they and how do they get their money?

" If it really were “good” for us, there’d be no need to lobby."

You might have missed it, but this entire story is based around the lies of the anti-fluoridationists. If it isn't good for us, why do they have to lie?

" I don’t give a rat’s behind about so-called poor kids not being able to afford toothpaste."

Thanks for self-identifying as a pathetic elitist.

" The problem is too much sugar (candy, soft drinks, etc.) in their diets."

You see, the fluoride helps protect teeth from the acid formed from too much sugar. That's why we fluoridate water. And these kids in lower socio-economic levels are more prone to cavities which are fixed using my tax money. So I'd rather have fluoride in the water (which is ALREADY IN THE WATER, but at a lower concentration), rather than pay higher taxes to fix poor kids teeth.

"Leave my drinking water alone. It’s got too much crap in it already"

Like fluoride?

Liz V -

If it really were “good” for us, there’d be no need to lobby.

There are lots of things that are good for us that have to be lobbied for if you want to get the government to do it. That's a necessary part of democracy at this point. There are lobbying organizations for practically every cause. If lobbying for something automatically makes it suspect, in your mind, what will happen when people start lobbying to restrict the home use of lawn chemicals or prohibit improper disposal of prescription drugs?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 01 Jun 2013 #permalink

” I don’t give a rat’s behind about so-called poor kids not being able to afford toothpaste.”

Thanks for self-identifying as a pathetic elitist.


Marilyn Talia Dahl said: It’s called free choice, dude.
So drink bottled water from natural springs, dudette. Oh, wait. Water can naturally have high levels of fluoride, so it's not just being shoved down your throat, it's being shoved down your throat without anybody's knowledge. Fallacious arguments are great, aren't they?

By Sheogorath (not verified) on 02 Jun 2013 #permalink

Portland must be a wasteland of tooth decay and halitosis. I can't believe the voters would turn their back on this pressing problem of the wanton spread of rot mouth.

The loony wackos have succeeded again. You people don't seem to be able to see that it is the F'loride...F' ION we are dosing ourselves with here. It's irrelevant whether it's Na F' or Ca F' , it's the ions that matter. The body also needs Na+ ions and Ca+ ions . Nothing poisonous here. Flouride F' is a halogen which dosen't deserve this innane fear and stigma. The other halogens are Chlorides, Bromides and Iodides. Chlorides are essential .

(I must have pushed the send button) Na Cl (salt) .Bromides are harmless and were used as "tranqilisers" in the 1920s and 30s, Iodides I' are also essential to prevent goiter. Flourides probably also strengthens bone as well as teeth. Where's the worry?
Well, the worry is that some unknown person is putting something in our water supply ...reasonable enough, but in the water purification process they are probably adding heaps of chlorine and goodness knows what else.
Most of you people here would probably be unaware that Flouride occurs naturally in very small amounts in most rocks and soil around towns and cities. In my town here it is around 0.02ppm. What the authorities want to do is increase that to about 0.8ppm. Now the loony wackos will say this will cause osteophorosis, Alzhiemers, you name it. Oh bloody whoa is me. Yet the first dental studies, where the benefit to the teeth of flouride in the water was discovered, was conducted in cities where the concentration of F' in the water occured NATURALLY in 100s of ppm. and only ill effect was a mottling of the teeth.

Good to know I can cross "State of Globe" off my "should I click?" list...

By Scottynuke (not verified) on 04 Jun 2013 #permalink

stuartg@96 - "Down the road a little, where they fluoridate, much lower levels of caries in children." - if you were meaning the thriving metropolis of Hamilton, then alas! no longer true. The City Council has voted to discontinue fluoridation of the municipal supply :( And yes, we had an awful lot of pseudoscience in the mix ("they're adding toxic industrial waste to our water, oh noes!")

@ken - and by "facts" you mean "fantasies" right?

So ken, you don't understand the difference between the F- ion and fluoridated compounds and their different chemistry?

There is a big difference.

@chrisp - he probably thinks table salt is poisonous.

one of the other blogs here on sciblogs has a post referencing Orac's post here, but I don't really get where they're going.

Fluoride is fine in small doses, Lead is toxic in any dose, therefore ?

I'm wondering if the post went up half finished? It just seemed odd to me.

I'm all for Fluoride in water, I didn't brush my teeth much as a kid and could have used all the help I could get!



Lawrence, table salt is poisonous - at the right rate of consumption.

Golly, I have been busy and so have not been reading Orac as much as I usually do and missed this post, glad to see that people were still arguing over it up until a few days ago. I have lived in Portland, it is a little odd in more ways than one. In parts of the city sidewalks are scarce to non-existent.

As to flouride there are some places where the water is naturally 'hard' (i.e. rich in TDS) and will swiftly destroy your teeth. So is it a bad idea to soften the water and remove as much of those chemicals as possible/practical?

It would be interesting to know what percentage of registered voters actually participated in the referendum on flouride. And what percentage of eligible voters are actually registered. Was this a special election? IOW did a small minority of motivated activists work their will on an apathetic majority?

The whole dustup is rather amusing when you consider what some of the really difficult issues confronting cities such as Portland are.

On a side note, one of the reasons for the existence of the so-called silicon forest (the high tech industry) in Portland is their water supply. For a very brief time I worked on what is called ultra-pure water for the integrated circuit industry. By far and away the largest problem with water is biological contamination. All of Portland's water comes from the Bull Run watershed on the NW flank of Mt. Hood. this water is accumulated in a reservoir and piped to holding reservoirs within the city that are open air. It is my understanding that the city has finally acceded to urgings from DHS (dubious I know) to cover said reservoirs to preclude the possibility of deliberate contamination.

There is more, I don't track Portland all that closely though I still have a few relatives there so I do read about it. If it were possible, I wonder how the anti-flouridation zealots would map against the apologists for a couple of portland police a schizophrenic homelass man for peeing on the sidewalk?

One consolation, it is not as bad as Anchorage.

Cheers from Brasil, the land of fantastic coffed and wickedly poisonous caterpillars.

By Krubozumo Nyankoye (not verified) on 10 Jun 2013 #permalink

bloody hell - proof read!

3rd to last paragraph

...police attacking and killing a ...

last sentence

coffee, for one example the ubiquitous supply of cafe zhino.

By Krubozumo Nyankoye (not verified) on 10 Jun 2013 #permalink

the city has finally acceded to urgings from DHS (dubious I know) to cover said reservoirs to preclude the possibility of deliberate contamination.

It's never too late to worry about the Yippies.

It's not the Yippies that are the problem with reservoir water supplies...more like the oocysts from Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium.

"...Finished Water Reservoirs: Systems that store treated water in open reservoirs must either cover the reservoir or treat the reservoir discharge to inactivate 4-log virus, 3-log Giardia lamblia, and 2-log Cryptosporidium. These requirements are necessary to protect against the contamination of water that occurs in open reservoirs...."

It’s not the Yippies that are the problem with reservoir water supplies…more like the oocysts from Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium.

I was going for the DHS angle.

In the 1970's I went for a swim in an Adirondak lake. The water was crystal clear, the water was devoid of any form of life, algae, fish, plants, nothing. It was also a little astringent, it felt like my skin had shrunk. That was when high sulfure coal was the standard product provided to power plants.

I don't know how to characterize people who fail to evaluate simple problems correctly. I do not uniformly characterize them as stupid. But I do think of them as seriously mislead.

We live in a complex and rapidly evolving world yet we seem to be addressing it as if it were a video game and squander opportunities waiting for the release of the next version, something lke Death of the Phytoplankton.

It is nice to be old and corrupt. It means I will most likely not have to share much of the future with the rest of you. Not that I wish even the most insane of you any harm, but just to say - harm there will be. You can't fool nature.

Bom noite

By Krubozumo Nyankoye (not verified) on 11 Jun 2013 #permalink

Firstly to address your claims about cranks referring to fluoride as a waste product of the fertilizer industry?

I just wanted to address your claims about cranks referring to fluoride as a waste product of the fertilizer industry?

Regardless of the given 'status' of the bi-product the fact remains that it is industrial grade, not commercial or pharmaceutical grade. Using a higher quality product would most likely render the scheme unaffordable in large populations. Industrial grade fluoride contains contaminants that pharma grade does not.

Speaking for the UK I have made extensive efforts to find out the specifics in relation to supply and the cost. So far no government body/water authority/health organization/water company/advocacy group has been able to tell me how or where the product is sourced from for my local area or anywhere else for that matter. They were also unable to tell me the specific chemical variety that they use. This was alarming. The fact is that this information is obscured by pro-fluoride proponents and is not clearly outlined by the NHS/BFS/BCC or present on water bills.

Im guessing you would probably argue that this kind of technical information would just confuse people?

You really need to reign in the arrogance
Remember it takes a pinch of intelligence to make a truly remarkable dumbass.

Sorry I repeated the first line as I didn't have time to address they many other inaccuracies in your blog.


[citation needed]

Joshua, I've. a simple question. Regardless of how it's sourced (industrial grade, pharmaceutical grade, whatever) what evidence demonstrates flouridation is harmful?

Well Joshua, your claims surprise me. I am able to determine what fluoridation products are added to water, because these are enshrined in the regulations. Only 3 compounds are approved. In addition, water authorities have to conduct a risk assessment regarding the source of materials and comply with safe drinking water legislation with respect to impurities. I could find out all this without leaving my desk, so it is not that hard. You can find all you need from the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the UK.

What you are really doing is trying to scaremonger by suggesting fluoridation is underhand.


Regardless of the given ‘status’ of the bi-product the fact remains that it is industrial grade, not commercial or pharmaceutical grade.

Using pharmaceutic grade hexafluorosilic acid could actually allow more contaminants, since the regulations for contaminants in drinking water are far more stringent than those for producing pharmaceutical grade products,.

Speaking for the UK I have made extensive efforts to find out the specifics in relation to supply and the cost.

You are most definitely not speaking for the UK, and your "extensive efforts" don't seem to have amounted to much, since I found the information you are referring to i.e. the supplier and details of impurities here (PDF) and a cost/benefit analysis here (PDF) with a 5 minute Google search.

Im guessing you would probably argue that this kind of technical information would just confuse people?

Perhaps it might confuse those who are unable to find this easily accessible information even through "extensive efforts".

You really need to reign in the arrogance
Remember it takes a pinch of intelligence to make a truly remarkable dumbass.

It seems to me that only, "a truly remarkable dumbass" would go to a blog, make some demonstrably untrue statements and insult the blog host while failing to support his claims that there are "many inaccuracies" with an iota of evidence.

Sorry I repeated the first line as I didn’t have time to address they many other inaccuracies in your blog.

Trans. I made a dumb mistake and it's all your fault.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 06 Aug 2013 #permalink

We have the same problem with this poison in our water plus we have a Dental Crisis in areas fluoridated for forty years, today 35% average children have fluorosis before fluoride is added, this stuff is in our foods, medicines, toothpaste, mouthwash, air,& hospitals reek with it, education standards are dropping, and some dam fools still advocate it year we know it affects the brain no need for programed robots we breed em.

Learn punctuation, Allan. Seriously. Second, [citation needed].

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 08 Aug 2013 #permalink

Antaeus, given many people are going to vote LNP in order to make Tony Abbott Australia's next PM, allan may have a point.

By Christine (the… (not verified) on 08 Aug 2013 #permalink

Allan says:

today 35% average children have fluorosis before fluoride is added

The scientific evidence says that:

Dental fluorosis is not a public health issue in Australia because of the very high proportion of children using low-fluoride children’s toothpastes.[...] Since the 1960s Australia has achieved significant reductions in dental decay rates. In the mid 1950s, Australian 12-year-olds experienced an average of more than nine decayed teeth. Older children experienced higher levels of tooth decay. Following the introduction of water fluoridation and fluoridated toothpastes, this tooth decay experience fell dramatically so that, by the late 1990s, the average Australian 12-year-old experienced just one decayed tooth. This reduction in tooth decay experience has been a significant public health achievement. [...] emerging evidence from Australia of an increase in dental decay rates in Australian children (while not firmly established, any possible increase in dental decay requires extreme caution before reducing fluoride levels in Australian water fluoridation programs)

My conclusion? What Allan claims is not true.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 08 Aug 2013 #permalink

Well, Kreboizen, allan is actually quite right in saying Australia has a Dental Crisis... not because of fluoride in the water, but because the previous LNP government cut pretty much all the government dental subsidies, and a lot of the oversight of dentists.

By Christine (the… (not verified) on 08 Aug 2013 #permalink