Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fairbanks Fluoride Foes Gobsmacked

The Fairbanks City Council demonstrated level heads last night when they voted against removing fluoride from city water. Councilwomen Tonya Brown and Vivian Stiver, who introduced the measure, supported the ban.

Maybe fluoridated water is a newly emerging health issue, maybe it is not. Maybe people who think fluoride should remain in drinking water because of its proven efficacy in preventing dental caries are Luddites (as opined by Doug Yates, director of Fluoride Free Fairbanks) and dullards blind to the mad conspiracy hatched by bureaucrats, scientists and gasp - the ADA - or maybe they aren't. Maybe fluoridated water really just wasn't much of an issue for the vast majority of city residents, not as gas and heating oil and electricity costs sky-rocketed this winter, not as the housing market collapsed, not as more and more servicemen and women were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So how on earth did fluoridated water, a complete non-issue in this area six months ago, make it onto the city council agenda? You might expect it was championed and pushed there by a group of concerned Fairbanks residents ... residents who drink city water and thus might have legitimacy in questioning what is in the water they drink.

Nope, gentle reader, it wasn't. It was the work of a hobbyist shit-stirrer, a person who trolls for molehills to make into mountains. This person makes a cause where none exists, shops it around and persists until a gullible ear is found. If a bit of a conspiracy can be manufactured into existence, so much the better. And there's always some bunko science or skewed statistic to hyperinflate the matter to one of dire importance.

Since the council voted the ban down, and Fluoride Free Fairbanks is now talking about mounting a citizen's initiative, I spent some time trying to find out who is Fluoride Free Fairbanks. The only two people that I could find openly associated with the group - billed as a group of concerned "residents" - are two that are most definitely not residents of Fairbanks, and thus do not drink the water.

So, here we have a non-issue that had its genesis in people who are not even directly affected by the matter. Already it has consumed city resources, and like a sulky, pukey child, demanded time and attention of the Mayor and Council - who really do have far more important issues to deal with: for starters, how about the deplorable lack of behavioral health care, the dearth of beds in the region's only detox center, and the inadequate size of the city police force?

Don't get me wrong. I am a strong and vocal proponent of the public process. But illegitimate end runs like this one - by people who are not stakeholders - steals legitimacy from the public and cheapens everyone's voice.


Coldfoot said...

I was listening to the council meeting on the radio, and I was under the impression that the fluoride thing was voted down with the intention of bringing it back soon, after council members had a chance to digest all the information they had been given.

I doubt the fluoride issue is going away.

CabinDweller said...

Wow. That is some picture, there, Flic.

I confess, despite being a Greenie, I just don't care much about fluoride. But that might be because I've spent my entire life drinking it with city water in the various places I've lived and it may have already dulled my brain function to the point that I can't care about it.

That, and if one wants to consider long-term health consequences of the stuff in water, I'm probably much more doomed by the city water I drank while growing up in a state that can very accurately be called One Big Superfund Site. I mean, fluoride is probably the most benign thing in the water there.

But I do have pretty good teeth. :)

nyscof said...

Fluoridation of public water supplies affects virtually everyone in the country. Foods made or grown with fluoridated water will contain fluoride that's often sold outside of the area.

Don't know if such businesses exist in Fairbanks; but even if you stop fluoridation you will be consuming fluoride from the food chain.

Unless some caring people teach legislator and residents in areas they don't live in that fluoride chemicals added to water supplies is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and a health hazard to some, people in one city are forcing fluoride on people in other cities who may have voted out fluoridation.

This is why over 1590 professionals urge the end to water fluoridation nation-wide and that Congressional hearings be held about why federal officials continue to ignore the taxpayer funded science showing us that fluoridation is harmful to our health.

You can join them here:

Ishmael said...

"Steals Legitimacy from the Public"

I love that.

Looks like the anti-fluoride freaks have found you.... damn google alerts.

I'm pretty sure the anti-fluoridoes are closely aligned with the black helicopter crowd. And UFOs. I'm just sayin'.

FlictheBic said...

Ohmigod - the fluoride in the food that we bumpkins up here are just too stupid to think about. First of all, considering that a very small minority of people anywhere in the US actually eat food grown in this country - Nyscof's arguement is ridiculously weak and a perfect example of the bunko science and non-critical thinking that is so prevelant in our society. Considering the provenance of most of our food, there are other contaminants that we should be far more alarmed about than a wee bit of fluroide taken up by plants watered by fluoridated water.

Second point, Nyscof obviously knows jack about Alaska - since quite a high percentage of people here do harvest truly local food - berries, greens, fish and animals - that arent slurping up fluoridated water, so nope, Nyscof, us misguided sorts that prefer fluoride in our water because of the demonstrable benefits it has for public health and public health costs, aren't in fact engaging in a practice that affects everyone in the country. Certainly not our wild salmon, which is about the only local Alaska food product that reaches the Lower 48.

This comment is a classic example of exactly what I was talking about in my post.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

As publisher of an article in favor of ceasing fluoridation in Fairbanks, I can give you some insight as to why non-Fairbanks residents would be concerned: unless you haul Fox water, you get fluoridated water because the main source for water suppliers around here is College Utilities water--which is fluoridated. And although there are suppliers of spring water, they can't all get up steepish driveways to deliver it. So they don't.

Fluoride is not a terribly big issue for me, but then, I grew up drinking water from a well (that was extremely high in arsenic, by the way--but it precipitated to the side of the metal tank we stored it in). The main issue is that people don't have much of a choice, and it really IS medicating without consent, sort of like adding chlorine to water.

The author of the article in the Republic and I went back and forth for a while getting current sources and more detail, and I think the piece was fairly well written and balanced. I didn't attend the public meeting on the issue, so I can't speak to how things went there.

I find myself rather neutral on the subject.

Paul said...

Wow, you're rather ignorant on the subject. Fluoride is a poison which was campaigned for by the Mellon institute (the same guys who told you that asbestos was safe), on behalf of the aluminium industry, who were facing mounting legal issues on the matter in the 50’s. Do some research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3y8uwtxrHo

CabinDweller said...

My point, and I can't speak for the other commenters as to their intent, was that flouridation is not a big issue to me.

I grew up drinking it, have been ingesting a steady flow of the stuff, and yet my teeth are fine. In terms of the big public issues in the Fairbanks area, which are receiving neither the attention nor the fervent letter-writing campaign, this one seems less important. Something worth discussing, researching, but far down the list of big things we ought to be dealing with as a community.

The only point made by the other side of the issue so far that resonates with me is the question of whether a municipality should administer a drug that people have no option to opt out of unless they have a well or drive out to Fox.

kjcarv said...

Fluoride: the only known cause of dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. I see people say how their teeth are fine, but maybe it's because you have good hygiene and brush them...why do people assume it's because of the additive to the water. Do folks realize that the fluoride in your water is a waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry?
When was the last time anyone looked at the back of their toothpaste tube for the warning that instructs you to call poison control if swallowed (and that's for the proper "pea-sized" amount that you're supposed to used, not the glob that oozes off the brush like advertisers show us on TV)
Also, it's not just foods from crops that get watered with fluoridated water that are of concern. Consider canned goods, bottled sodas & juices, etc.; all of which are manufactured in cities that are fluoridated and then distributed to other communities.
I think the problem lies in the fact that there is an optimal dosage, but who really is monitoring each individuals dosage based on the fact that it is in not just in the water we drink, but also in the toothpaste we put into our mouths as well as the foods we buy from the grocer and ingest ...it all adds up and new statistics show that the decline in decay between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities isn't a significant difference in comparison to the adverse health effects attributed to excess fluoride.
There are individuals who are more at risk...babies being bottle fed with formulas mixed w/ fluoridated water, kidney patients who can't filter as efficiently, small children who still have developing teeth and tend to swallow toothpaste...so, who's looking out for them?
So, in essence, is the dated science and practice of fluoridation worth holding on to if what we're finding in current research tells us that it isn't quite as safe as it was once thought to be?