‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland’ & Fluoride By The Numbers

Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland (HKHP), the group behind the campaign advocating to fluoridate the city of Portland, Oregon’s drinking water, has made a number of claims to justify their cause. Portland is the last major metropolitan city in the US to continually oppose the national trend of water fluoridation. On May 21st, 2013 Portland residents will again be asked to vote on the issue after a contentious decision by Portland’s City Council to fluoridate, with little regard for input from the public, was overturned via referendum last fall.

The issue of water fluoridation has struck a particular nerve with Portland citizens, who pride themselves on having some of the cleanest drinking water in the country. HKHP has based its entire campaign on what they claim is a dental health crisis in Oregon–a crisis that only fluoridation can solve. On the heels of this important decision, Portland residents must seriously assess whether or not the claims made by HKHP are valid.

Their first major claim is that the annual cost per Portland resident to fluoridate its water would be only $0.61. HKHP are pulling this figure directly from estimates provided to Upstream Public Health by the Water Bureau:

It would cost $575,000 per year in annual costs (or less if different fluoride compounds are chosen). The Water Bureau estimates there are 932,000 water users, so this amounts to $0.61 per person per year.” [1]

What this claim conveniently omits is the estimated cost to the city to construct the fluoride delivery facility, which could reach upwards of $7 million dollars [2]. The City of Portland is still struggling to grapple with its $25 million dollar budget shortfall.

HKHP go on to claim that “35% of Oregon children have untreated tooth decay compared to only 15% of Washington children,” and that “from 2002 to 2007, untreated dental decay in Oregon jumped by 49%.” [3] The statistics for these claims are taken from Oral Health surveys conducted on a statewide level and cataloged nationally by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to measure the oral health of children, with participants typically ranging from kindergarten through third grade.

While it is indeed unfortunate that far too many Oregon children suffer from the perfectly preventable affliction of untreated tooth decay, we must be able to accurately identify the reasons for this if we should ever hope to address how to treat it. Pro-fluoride activists would like to insinuate that fluoride chemicals in drinking water, or lack thereof, are a contributing factor to unchecked dental decay, but what do the numbers suggest?

According to the CDC’s compiled data on states that have submitted records for untreated tooth decay in third grade students, Oregon sits fifth from the bottom at 35.4% [4]. Also, according to the CDC’s 2010 Water Fluoridation Statistics, the percentage of persons receiving fluoridated water in Oregon is 22.6%, making Oregon the least fluoridated state in the US that has submitted data on untreated decay [5]. So surely states with worse dental health numbers than Oregon have comparably low rates of fluoridation? Well….

Louisiana, with an untreated decay rate of 42% has 41% of its population drinking fluoridated water. Arizona, with an untreated decay rate of 40% has 57% of its population drinking fluoridated water. New Mexico, with an untreated decay rate of 37% has 77% of its population drinking fluoridated water. And Texas, with the highest untreated decay rate of 43% has 80% of its population drinking fluoridated water. Kentucky, the state who sits just ahead of Oregon in its dental health numbers with an untreated decay rate of 34.6% has a whopping 99.9% of its population drinking fluoridated water! New York, who sits just ahead of them with an untreated decay rate of 33% has 75% of its population drinking fluoridated water. The numbers posted off the CDC’s own website suggest no correlation between the percentage of persons drinking fluoridated water with a lowered rate of untreated dental decay.

Even in states with relatively low rates of untreated dental decay, the individual cities within them, fluoridated or not, do not necessarily reflect the state average. For instance, take the cities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Las Vegas, Nevada, two fluoridated cities that according to 2010 population statistics rank the closest in size to Portland [6]. Wisconsin had an untreated dental decay rate of 20%, with 88% of its population receiving fluoridated water. But statistics from the 2008 Make Your Smile Count survey showed “children in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) to have an untreated decay rate of 37.5 percent, far higher than the state average of 20 percent,” [7] and in 2012 Milwaukee’s City Council actually directed the Milwaukee Water Works to lower the concentration of fluoride in the city’s drinking water [8].

According to the CDC, Nevada’s untreated dental decay rate is 28%, with 73% of its population receiving fluoridated water. But according to a joint United Way and Nevada Community Foundation study, in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, untreated dental decay among third-graders sits at an alarming 38.9% [9].

And this brings us back to Portland, a city that despite not fluoridating its water has an untreated dental decay rate of 21% [10], a figure that’s lower than the national average of untreated dental decay and a figure that actually brings the statewide average of Oregon down, where Oregon children outside of Portland have a 44% rate of untreated decay [10]. HKHP actually admits to Portland’s low decay rate on their website, but frames it in a wonderfully deceptive way: “In the Tri-County area, 21% of children suffer from untreated dental decay – that’s double the rate of decay right across the river in Vancouver and forty percent more than Seattle.” [11]

Their implication being that fluoridated water is the cause of Washington’s better than average dental health numbers. But again, despite Clark County Washington, where Portland’s closest neighbor city of Vancouver resides, having only 10% untreated decay in its children surveyed [12], 48% of its residents have access to fluoridated water [13], a figure which is lower than Washington’s overall fluoridation average of 64.6%, and dramatically less than the 80% fluoridated King County, the county the city of Seattle resides in, whose decay rate is 15%.

The totality of “evidence” presented in the 2010 King County Smile Survey that focuses on water fluoridation’s role in public health takes up a whole two sentences:

Children in King County continued to have less dental disease than did children in other areas of Washington State. 80% of King County residents have access to fluoridated water, which probably contributed to the better oral health status of King County children.” [14]

Of course “probably” is not exactly a scientific standard in the strictest sense. One interesting thing to note about the findings in the King County Smile Survey is the rates of Dental Sealants in third grade students remained significantly higher in King County than in the rest of Washington State.

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs on these surfaces. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay by keeping germs and food particles out of these grooves. The rates of dental sealants among third-graders in King County were 63%, as opposed to 51% for Washington State [15]. Incidentally, only 43% of Oregon’s third-graders have these dental sealants [16]. However, more than half of the third-graders surveyed in Portland – 51% – have dental sealants [10].

The sad, yet all too frequent re-occurring theme in every one of the statewide oral health surveys is the fact that children from low-income families, children of color, and children whose primary language is not English have dramatically higher rates of untreated dental decay. Despite being largely fluoridated for decades, Washington State had higher rates of dental disease across the board in 2005 until efforts were made to increase access to care and prevention. Once those measures were put into place, untreated decay rates among low-income preschoolers dropped by 50% within 5 years [17]. The advocates for community water fluoridation, a euphemism they like to substitute for what it should be called–the disposal of industrial waste [18]–seem more intent on dispensing an outdated placebo that modern science has categorically proven poses negative health risks [19], than taking meaningful, evidence-based measures on treating Oregon’s dental health problems.

When it comes to the practice of water fluoridation and the numerous reasons why it needs to be rejected, perhaps the most fundamental reason of them all, a reason that cannot be stressed enough, is the fact that it violates one of the most basic principles of medicine: a patient’s informed consent. The fluoride added to drinking water meets every legal definition of a drug. The fluoride added to dental products is strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, yet what is added to municipal water is not overseen by any regulatory government agency. Fluoride is not a nutrient, it is not an essential mineral, and it is not added to make drinking water potable. Fluoride is added to treat people under the banner of it having a medicinal purpose. All medicines prescribed by doctors have a specific dosage based on the nature of the problem, age, gender, existing medical conditions, treatment, and consent of the patient. Water fluoridation is the mass medication of an entire population without any medical diagnosis whatsoever and without any regard for dosage, consent, or case specifics of the individual.

The precautionary principle states: “If an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an act.” [20] Even if one were to shrug off the ethical concerns of water fluoridation and were to believe that the practice has some public health benefit, it would be irresponsible to jeopardize the health of an entire community in the absence of  any scientific consensus that the practice is either safe or effective. This is why I am urging all Portland citizens to reject the fluoridation of its water and vote No on Measure 26-151 this May.

Documentation

1. Healthy Kids Healthy Portland
http://healthykidshealthyportland.org/endnotes/#why-fluoride

2. Fluoride would cost $5 million and take 5-plus years: Portland City Hall roundup
http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2012/08/fluoride_would_cost_5_million.html

3. Healthy Kids Healthy Portland – the crisis
http://healthykidshealthyportland.org/the-crisis/

4. CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – Percentage of 3rd Grade students with untreated tooth decay
http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/nohss/IndicatorV.asp?Indicator=3

5. CDC – 2010 Water Fluoridation Statistics
http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/statistics/2010stats.htm

6. Water Fluoridation Status Of The 50 Largest Cities In The United States
http://www.wda.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/US-Cities-Fluoridation.pdf

7.  Making Milwaukee Smile 2011, p.2
http://www.chawisconsin.org/documents/MMSreport12.11.pdf

8. JSOnline – Council reaches compromise on fluoride issue
http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/council-reaches-compromise-on-fluoride-issue-hn681rt-163587656.html

9. PR Newswire – At Risk Children Receive Free Dental Services at Communities In Schools Clinic
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/at-risk-children-receive-free-dental-services-at-communities-in-schools-clinic-85004707.html

10. Oregon Smile Survey 2007; p.12
http://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/oralhealth/Documents/smile_2007.pdf

11. Healthy Kids Healthy Portland – FAQ
http://healthykidshealthyportland.org/frequently-asked-questions/

12. Smile Survey 2010 The Oral Health Of Children In Clark County, Washington; p. 5
http://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/care/documents/ClarkCounty2010Report_final.pdf

13. Clark County Public Health Smile Survey 2010
http://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/care/documents/SmileSurveySummaryfinal.pdf

14. 2010 King County Survey Summary, King County; p. 4
http://bit.ly/13FIeH2

15. 2010 King County Survey Summary, King County; p. 7
http://bit.ly/13FIeH2

16. Oregon Smile Survey 2007; p. 11
http://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/oralhealth/Documents/smile_2007.pdf

17. The Columbian – Local View: Protecting kids’ smiles should be a priority
http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/apr/24/protecting-kids-smiles-should-be-a-priority/

18. FluorideAlert.org – Fluoridation Chemicals
http://www.fluoridealert.org/issues/water/fluoridation-chemicals/

19.  FluorideAlert.org – 10 Facts About Fluoride
http://www.fluoridealert.org/articles/fluoride-facts/

Harvard Study – Published in National Institute of Health Journal – Finds Fluoride Lowers Children’s IQ
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/07/harvard-study-published-in-federal-government-journal-finds-fluoride-lowers-childrens-iq.html

The Corbett Report – Fluoride Fight: The forced drugging of society
http://www.corbettreport.com/fluoride-fight-the-forced-drugging-of-society/

20. Precautionary Principle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

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‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland’ & The Portland Fluoride Saga

Last August, a hush-hush coalition of more than 50 high-profile organizations called Upstream Public Health were quietly lobbying Portland’s City Council to fluoridate its public water supply, in secret and off the City Council’s public calendars, violating the city’s lobbying and reporting requirements. [1]

When it came time to pitch the idea to the public, Upstream Public Health presented a manufactured “dental health crisis” in Portland by comparing the statewide numbers for Oregon of untreated disease with other states, instead of using Portland metro’s readily available dental health numbers where Portland kids actually rank as having the 15th lowest cavity rate in the US, even when compared to city’s that are heavily fluoridated. [2]

On September 12, 2012, lame duck Mayor Sam Adams, out-going city Commissioner Randy Leonard and the three other members of Portland’s City Council unanimously voted to fluoridate the City’s Bull Run watershed (some of the cleanest public water in the country), constructing a $5 million dollar treatment plant and spending $500,000 annually to purchase the fluoride chemicals, all without receiving any input from the public, without any independent scientific review, and with the city facing a $25 million budget shortfall. [3]

The decision to fluoridate was conveniently timed to give anti-fluoride activists less than one month to gather the necessary 20,000 valid signatures in order to force a referendum and put the issue up for a public vote by 2014. Of course, the fluoride treatment was plant had already been scheduled to come online and have the chemicals flowing by March, 2014. [4]

When anti-fluoride activists managed to gather 43,236 signatures, more than double the amount needed to refer the issue to the voters, and submitted them one day ahead of their deadline, the City Council voted 3-1 to fast track the referendum and move the date up by one year, from May 2014 to the May 2013 ballot. The resolution to move the date, at a cost to the city of $36,000, was submitted by the unabashedly pro-fluoride Randy Leonard in his last official act as City Commissioner. [5]

Fast forward to January 10, 2013, where a new political group calling themselves “Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland” filed paperwork with the state to support Measure 26-151, which will put the issue of water fluoridation to the voters. Managing the pro-fluoride campaign is Evyn Mitchell, who who until the previous November served as the campaign manager for Charlie Hales in his successful bid for Portland’s mayor. [6]

Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland (HKHP), the “grassroots” organization (as their child-adorned website likes to boast) received its first contribution, $1,000, from the campaign of state Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, the same day it formed. He was just the first in a line of political figureheads and special interest donors. One particularly generous donation of $30,000 was given by the Dentists of Oregon Political Action Committee (DOPAC) [7]. Who is DOPAC? They are the political arm of the Oregon Dental Association, who is in turn one of five dental societies that comprise the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Eleventh Trustee District [8]. The ADA’s PAC is quietly emerging as one of the most powerful trade lobbies in the country, giving nearly $13 million to state and local politicians in the 2010 races [9]. The ADA has effectively lobbied to keep dentists out of the Medicare system since 1965, allowing dentist’s to charge exorbitant prices. Now the ADA is lobbying for a repeal of parts of President Barack Obama’s health-care law for the sole purpose of preventing independent dental health-care practitioners from operating outside the ADA’s monopoly privilege, offering basic dental treatment at reduced costs.

So the local surrogate of the ADA are major contributor’s to HKHP’s campaign, but what about some of the other donors? A closer examination of HKHP donations that show up in the State Legislator’s campaign account [10], reveal something interesting. For every single contribution given to HKHP by a legislator, an equivalent or greater amount had been given to said politician by none other than the DOPAC. It would seem this is being done to create the appearance of favor from state legislators when DOPAC is simply “passing through” funds via intermediaries, a practice which is still legal in Oregon. (A full breakdown of the lobbying influence DOPAC has in Oregon, as well as their contribution to HKHP’s campaign can be seen, courtesy of former candidate for Oregon Secretary of State Seth Woolley, here): http://swoolley.org/files/dentists-hkhp-passthrough.html

As of this writing, the only two exceptions who have not taken an advance payment from DOPAC are Mitch Greenlick, who did receive $2500 from the DOPAC, but before the previous election cycle, in 2009. The other is Ben Unger, whose Consulting corporation, Tallfir LLC, received $15,000 in consulting fees by HKHP.

Another curiosity about HKHP’s campaign finance reports is that instead of actually reporting their transactions in a timely matter, they are systematically reporting them as late as possible by using a reporting service that holds transactions, reporting them exactly at the due date time. Here’s an example:

You can see:
Transaction Date : 01/18/2013
Due Date : 02/19/2013 11:59:00 PM
Filed Date : 02/19/2013 11:59:00 PM
[11]

HKHP is filing transactions at literally the last minute before their deadline for the least amount of fiscal transparency. The only transactions that were filed well before the deadline were the politician campaign PACs that donated. This establishes that they’re knowingly hiding certain transactions for as long as possible.

With only a few precious weeks away before the crucial vote, HKHP is gearing up for a sophisticated media campaign, and has been getting favorable press from publications like the Willamette Week, who also happen to be running their ads. One of HKHP’s main arguments for pushing fluoride, which seems to be a favorite ploy among the pro-fluoride activists, is to again compare the statewide numbers for Oregon of untreated dental disease to Washington state. Yet we are still not talking about Oregon, we are talking about Portland, where the percentage of children with untreated dental disease is 21%, compared with the 44% outside of Portland and 35% statewide. Portland Metro’s cavity rate is actually so much lower than the rest of the state that it brings the statewide average down to 66%. Even in the 2007 Oregon Smile Survey where the pro-fluoride activist site the statistic that 35% of Oregon children have untreated tooth decay, the survey goes on to say: “Children in the Portland metropolitan area have less untreated tooth decay, are less likely to have ever had a cavity and are less likely to need urgent dental treatment” [12]. In fact, untreated dental disease tends to be the most pronounced in areas of low-income that lack access to dental care and insurance, and not in regions that do not fluoridate [13].

The main source of “fluoride” being used to treat municipal water supply’s is not the pharmaceutical grade fluoride found in your toothpaste, but fluorosilicic acid, an industrial waste byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry. HKHP hopes to frighten Portland residents into accepting these fluoridation chemicals to be pumped into their drinking water, despite the fact that these chemicals are allowed to contain numerous impurities including arsenic and lead [14], despite the fact that there is no way to control the dosage, despite the cost to the City, facing a $25 million budget deficit, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of nations have chosen not to fluoridate, with 97% of Western Europe being fluoride-free, despite the fact that sodium fluoride is largely ineffective against fighting tooth decay when not applied topically, and despite the fact that these fluoridation chemicals have been demonstrably linked to adverse health effects. [15].

If Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland was truly sincere about the health and well-being of children’s teeth then why have they run their campaign in such an intentionally opaque, misleading, and downright deceitful manner? Instead of supporting education on good dental hygiene and the reduced intake of sugars, they would have the City of Portland squander its resources to dump unregulated chemicals into its public water in a practice that is proven to be in-effective at best, and damaging to one’s health and the environment at worst. This is why, if you are living in the Portland area, I am urging that you vote NO on Measure 26-151 this May.

Portland is the largest city in the United States that does not add fluoridation chemicals to its water. The City has voted down attempts to fluoridate three times since 1956. Let’s make four, and keep Portland as an example to the rest of the country that water fluoridation is an outdated practice, and like the majority of nations of Earth, we do not need it!

Addendum:

Two comments from former candidate for Oregon Secretary of State Seth Woolley:

Slight correction, the Ben Unger 15,000 was actually 10,000, but they way they report it is confusing. Having a 5,000 transaction against the 10,000 payable the same day looked like it was in addition to the 10,000 not against it, but on further examination in ORESTAR (on the 5,000 transaction) you can see the transaction was associated to the payable as counting against it. Hope that helps.

Not described in the video is DOPAC’s $50,000 initial contribution to UPH (in addition to the $30,000 sent to HKHP), nor the HTFAL PAC contributions to both DOPAC ($8400) and HKHP ($5000) that don’t have any recorded original donor due to the original contribution donations being so old and thus outside of current public records, although when I looked in archived summary reports, I didn’t find any records either, which is a bit confusing.

Also not described is the use of the same high cost social media astroturfing organization also used by Hales’ campaign manager that is leading the campaign, Evyn Mitchell (as described by the video). Karmic Marketing is their name. At one point all of their funding was 100% from PACs, originating from the same PAC. Now they got a couple more PACs, but almost no individual donations, but they are still around 97 to 99.5% PAC donations, depending on how the miscellaneous contributions break down.”

 Documentation:

1. OregonLive – New coalition lobbies to fluoridate Portland’s drinking water

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/08/new_coalition_lobbies_to_fluor.html

OregonLive – ‘Portland City Council calendars don’t show meetings reported by fluoride lobbyists: Portland City Hall roundup’
http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2012/10/portland_city_council_calendar.html

2. Portland v. Oregon oral health
Upstream Public Health’s manufactured “dental health crisis”
http://bit.ly/ZkRQ3B

3. Portland Water Bureau
The Portland Water Bureau’s current estimate to design and construct a fluoride delivery facility is $5 million. The cost to operate and maintain the facility is estimated $500,000 per year
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/411660

4. Portland Water Bureau
To date, (the Water Bureau has spent) approximately $152,657. Following the City Council’s decision on September 12, 2012 to begin fluoridation by March 2014, the bureau contracted for outside professional technical engineering (PTE) services – external experts to plan and design a fluoride facility. The total PTE cost was $102,657.”
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/411660

5. Portland Tribune – ‘Council may speed up fluoride vote’
Moving the fluoridation measure to the May 21, 2013, ballot will cost the city $36,000. The resolution submitted by Leonard argues the earlier vote is justified.”
http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/124975-council-may-speed-up-fluoride-vote

6. OregonLive – ‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland’ political group forms to support fluoride: Portland City Hall roundup’
http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2013/01/healthy_kids_healthy_portland.html

7. Oregon Secretary Of State
https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/gotoPublicTransactionDetail.do?tranRsn=1451561

8. Oregon Dental Association
http://www.oregondental.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3498

9. The Wall Street Journal – The Health PAC to Watch? Dentists
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304441404577478723769027162.html

10. Oregon Secretary Of State – Campaign Finance Reports for Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland

https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/cneSearch.do?cneSearchButtonName=search&cneSearchFilerCommitteeId=16145

11. Oregon Secretary Of State
https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/gotoPublicTransactionDetail.do?tranRsn=1451561

12. Oregon smile survey 2007
http://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/oralhealth/Documents/smile_2007.pdf

13. FluorideAlert.org – Water Fluoridation, Tooth Decay, & Poverty
http://www.fluoridealert.org/studies/caries07/

14. BrooWaha – Limit Fluoride to Prevent Lead Poisoning, Study Says
http://www.broowaha.com/articles/6685/limit-fluoride-to-prevent-lead-poisoning-study-says-#372PeiH4XeZTSBXK.99

NSF Fact Sheet
http://www.nsf.org/business/water_distribution/pdf/NSF_Fact_Sheet.pdf

NSF on arsenic and lead in the water
http://www.nofluoride.com/presentations/NSF%20International.pdf

15. FluorideAlert.org – 10 Facts About Fluoride
http://www.fluoridealert.org/articles/fluoride-facts/

Other video resources:
Corbett Report: Fluoride Fight: The forced drugging of society
http://www.corbettreport.com/fluoride-fight-the-forced-drugging-of-society/