Is Portland Anti-Science?

By Keith Kloor | May 22, 2013 5:53 am

For years, Portland has ranked as one of America’s greenest cities. While its eco-minded culture has been famously lampooned in Portlandia, the city’s environmentally friendly reputation is well earned, as (Seattle-based) Grist notes:

Portland’s public transit system is held up as a model for the country. Per capita carbon emissions are down 26 percent since 1990. Portland consistently tops lists for most bike-friendly city. The city even has an eco-pub.

So how is it possible that the citizens of a city lauded for its ecological values, a place “where every day feels like Earth Day,” as one magazine has written, can be so irrational about something that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century? I’m referring to the latest voter rejection by Portlanders of a measure to fluoridate the city’s water.

Just so we’re clear: the scientific consensus on the benefits and safety of fluoridated water is well established, as Slate recently laid out:

Almost every credible national, state, and local health and science organization—private and public—gives its blessing to optimal levels of water fluoridation: The American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..They all agree that fluoridated water is perfectly safe and extremely effective at preventing tooth decay.

Portland’s anti-fluoridation history is a curious thing. Much of the United States accepts fluoridated water, though pockets of resistance have sprouted up in the last decade (helped by the internet, it seems).The Slate piece gets at the reasons underlying Portland’s holdout:

Almost everyone interviewed cited the same argument for the ferocity of the opposition, even in the face of near-universal scientific consensus about the safety and benefits of fluoridation: Portlanders’ attachment to their status as one of the greenest big cities in America, a sense of identity tied up with a perceived link to an unsullied environment. (“Industrial byproducts don’t belong in our drinking water” is “the No. 1 reason” that Clean Water Portland opposes fluoridation.)

This sentiment is fascinating. At its core is an appeal to nature that mirrors the animating force of the anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements. Unfortunately, that emotive power makes opponents of vaccines, GMOs, and fluoridated water impervious to science. I have argued that this fetishizing of nature prevents a dominant wing of environmentalism from modernizing.

The citizens of Portland, despite their embrace of trailblazing sustainability and urban planning initiatives, remain wedded to some outdated philosophical concepts that put the city at odds with science.  A Portland politician quoted by Slate bemoans the fetish of fluoride opponents in his city:

“This obsession with the quality of the water … There isn’t anything new in [Clean Water Portland’s] arguments,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D), who represents much of Portland and was in the state legislature during the late 1970s statewide fight over fluoride. “Since then we’ve had 30 years more experience, and we don’t have people growing extra heads; the supposed dangers haven’t materialized. It truly is not a science-based rational argument.”

UPDATED: I’m rounding up articles and reactions on the Portland news. The AP has a write-up, as does the Verge. A local station reports that “new battle lines may be drawn in the future.”  Scientific American has an excellent piece called, “Why Portland is wrong about water fluoridation.” This post asks how you can tell someone is from Portland?

The backyard chickens, the beard, the inability to pump gasoline. And perhaps we should add a lack of a full set of teeth.

Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post notes:

The vote makes Portland one of the largest American cities not to fluoridate its water supply, second only to San Jose. Over-under on when we’ll have a Portlandia episode on the subject? I’m guessing next season.

**For additional reading, see my Discover blogging colleague, George Johnson, the Washingon Post’s Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog and Steven Novella at the Science-Based Medicine blog.

Some historical context: In 1955, fluoridated water was considered by some to be part of a communist plot, along with the polio vaccine. Source for image/Wikimedia commons.

File:Unholy three cropped.png

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: anti-vaccine movement, science
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

    It is sad to me because I’m a left-leaning greenie. They don’t realize how much the anti-scientific craziness dilutes credibility in legitimate issues. I know you’ve written on this before, but it is getting to the point where I’m embarrassed to hug the same tree as the people I generally agree with.

  • stghynrty

    It’s quite bizarre. The majority of the country, which has been fluoridated for decades with no ill effects, is just looking at us like, “What PLANET are you people from?”

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    Yeah, I agree–it’s all wrapped up in the vaccine-GMO-fluoride naturalistic basket of tricks.

    And yes: I know it’s unpopular to use the phrase anti-science but it is. So what that suggests to me is that their views on global warming aren’t probably science based. They probably just happen to align with their other naturalistic basket items.

    This is a problem for me. I have been pretty much excluded from the left. I don’t want to go to their meetings anymore because they are becoming so crazed on conspiracies and other nuttery. I used to be more active with them, but now I have decided to spend time on science activism instead.

    Good news in MA voting though: we are keeping the wind turbines apparently.

    • kkloor

      Well, I was being deliberately provocative with the headline to this post. I’m personally conflicted about the anti-science label, and ordinarily shy away using it, as I discussed here:

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/01/03/the-anti-science-tent/#.UZzNXI4-R7E

      • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

        Yeah, I know, we’ve gone ’round about this more than once. Sometimes I avoid it just because the going ’round detracts from the issues. But I still think it, even if I don’t say it.

        Seems to me it’s like a religious perspective on gay people, for example. Some folks think they aren’t anti-gay, and would include a gay guy or lesbian in their congregation–assuming they aren’t, er, active. Maybe they’d get their hair cut by a gay guy. But I’ve seen this in Mormon churches. Teh gay is ok if they are celibate. And then the church works against gay marriage. And bars them from church offices and other situations.

        Are they anti-gay? I’d say yes. Despite the veneer of tolerance-with-caveats.

      • Bernie Mooney

        I think mem is right about climate change and the left. These days they’ll hitch their wagons to anyonething that fits in with their worldview or promotes their cause(s).

        But I saw this coming in the late 70s when I was a member of the Clamshell Alliance. I stopped going to local Cambridge meetings because they wanted to end each one with everyone holding hands in a circle and chanting.

        I was all politics and had no time for that mumbo jumbo. Needless to say, we didn’t get along. In fact, I think that might have planted the seeds for the eventual emergence, decades later, of the progressive contrarian. ;)

  • Bernie Mooney

    That commie plot idea lasted into the 60s when I was growing up. Anti-fluoride was associated with the John Birch Society.

    • JonFrum

      Precisely. When the anti-fluoride movement was associated with the Right, the (pre-environmentalist) Left rolled their eyes at the ignorance of the rubes. Now that much of the Left has aligned itself with romantic environmentalism, General Ripper’s rant about ‘precious bodily fluids’ in Dr Strangelove would fit in perfectly at any Portland farmer’s market. Quite a turnaround, no?

      • kkloor

        How do you know that the pre-environmentalist left (whoever they were) rolled their eyes? I’m also not getting your point.

        Are you just annoyed that people are pointing out the right’s lunacy on this issue as well, which by the way still exists, to some degree? The anti-fluoridation movement is by no means the sole domain of lefties–just as with the anti-vaxx and anti-GMO movements. It’s just that foodie/lefty/greenies are louder and agitate more about it.

      • Tom Scharf

        The anti-fluoridation movement here in Pinellas County was pushed by Tea party advocates mostly as a budget issue. It was enacted, and recently reversed.

        http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/tea-party-influenced-pinellas-commission-vote-to-eliminate-fluoride-in/1195449

  • Eric Lorson

    Flouride occurs naturally in water and is in many hygene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. It may not hurt, but the benefit is in question – you need very little, and too much is actually poisonous. It is not appropriate to compare this issue to vaccine lunatics. Plus the GMO’S issue is a real and serious problem – this magazine seems to be owned by Monsanto with all the pro-GMO crap they spew.

    • Alex Johnson

      Show me one instance where GMO has hurt anyone. It really bothers me that people are so anti GMO and have no good scientific reason for being so. Just an unfounded fear of scientists messing with plant genetics. Do you realize how many lives GMO crops have saved from starvation? How many GMO crops have allowed us to weather the worst drought since the 1980’s and still produce the 8th largest corn crop in history?

    • http://pdiff.weebly.com/ Pdiff

      I second Alex’s request. I’ll add to it a request for ANY credible information on people/animals getting overdosed from fluoride water treatment, toothpaste, mouthwash, or any combination thereof. It simply is not happening.

      And before you start chucking the “shill” shoe and accusing one of spewing crap you had best first take a long hard look in the mirror.

    • Krissalee85

      The fluoride in the U.S water supply is not naturally occurring. It is hydrofluorosilicic acid, a toxic industrial waste product sourced from China’s phosphate fertilizer industry.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Bunster/1108449235 Mark Bunster

        Um, yes there very much is natural fluoride in water. What are you talking about?

        • Krissalee85

          The fluoride added to our water is NOT natural sodium fluoride, it is hydrofluorosilicic acid, plain and simple. I don’t know of any other way to state this.

          • Krissalee85

            Here are some clear examples of how utterly naive people are on issues such as these. Do you all think that it is natural sodium fluoride being added to the water? Please do yourselves a favor, take your rose colored glasses off and do some research.

          • kdk33

            which breaks down to flouride and silicon dioxide and protons. The flouride and protons are exactly the same as from “natural” sodium flouride.

            So, Krissalee85, you need to be asking if silicon dioxide is bad for you.

            Is it?

          • jh

            Krissalee –

            You don’t need to state it any other way.

            Where a compound comes from is irrelevant. Sodium chloride is sodium chloride whether its from the sea, industrial waste, or interstellar space. If you can make a case that there are toxic impurities remaining from some industrial process, then, yes, you potentially have a legit health concern. But “natural” sodium fluoride (mined from where and processed how?) can also have toxic impurities.

            I’m sure most of the vitamins added to breakfast cereal aren’t “natural” either. It doesn’t matter.

          • Krissalee85
  • Tom Scharf

    The benefits of fluoridation of tap water when all you drink is bottled water is clear…

  • Tom C

    On a somewhat unrelated topic, I’m going to guess that the putative successes of public transit and bike riding have more to do with the city’s demographics (young, childless, etc.) than anything regarding policy. No data, just a guess.

  • http://www.gregor.us/ gregor.us

    You’d be surprised how many otherwise educated and smart people here in Portland believe that, somehow, a history of government and pharmaceutical industry malfeasance degrades the science behind fluoridation. What I’ve concluded is that an additional split on the Left separates those who are numerate, and literate in probability and scaling from those who are hijacked by their own psychology. The latter are very good at understanding a big thesis. But, they simply find the hurdle too high to understand parts per million, rates, scaling, and other multi-factoral conditions. Think of this not as anti-science. But rather, a tendency in thinking and processing that’s very powerful and simply can’t jump over to another track, where empiricism and precise measurements hold sway.

    • peter cowan

      Hi Gregor,

      If I may, a play on your response:

      The former are very good at understanding empiricism and precise measurements. But, they simply find the hurdle too high to understand that science only provides a body of testable knowledge, and that an ethical framework must be employed to make use of that knowledge. Think of this not as anti-ethics. But rather, a tendency in thinking and processing that’s very powerful and simply can’t jump over to another track, where ethics must be used to balance positive results in the aggregate against negative results in subsets of that aggregate, keeping in mind other possible solutions with different cost/benefit curves, where ethical concerns hold sway.

      Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;) Now, in general…

      The fact that this discussion has devolved into “anti-science” vs “pure water” has been hugely disappointing. And, neither side is less guilty of choosing tribalism over rational discourse, even this article–in a science magazine–is no more than an appeal to authority. In the dozens of conversations I had with water fluoridation proponents, not one of them had read any source studies. Not one. They all just quoted bullet points from various authorities, and they all called me “anti-science”.

      Seeking answers from trusted authorities is a valid decision making strategy, but it is not science. This is science: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11571#description the 2006 NRC analysis of all the peer-reviewed fluoride studies up to that point. The purpose of the review was to determine at what point to remove high levels of naturally occurring fluoride from water systems, but it looked at the science concerning all levels. After reading THE WHOLE DOCUMENT (skimming parts, admittedly) I stopped discussing the issue beyond defending myself against claims of anti-science. Why? Because it became clear that one can genuinely make a legitimate case for or against water fluoridation*. This should be patently obvious given that of the ~350 million people worldwide who receive artificially fluoridated water ~200 million of them live in the United States, and outside the US the trend is towards defluoridation. So if you are going to call people who oppose water fluoridation anti-science, you must look at it within its actual global context. This is yet another example of American insularity.

      *The basic case. Thoughtful people can go either way with this.
      1) Fluoride does prevent cavities to a certain degree (duh), but
      2) The bulk of the benefit comes from topical application not from ingestion.
      3) At low concentrations, fluoridated water is not harmful to the general population, but is harmful to certain sub-populations.
      4) There are are actually a handful of genuine potential concerns that deserve more study.
      5) Authoritative groups are not immune to politics (duh).

      • jh

        “The fact that this discussion has devolved into “anti-science” vs “pure water” has been hugely disappointing. And, neither side is less guilty of choosing tribalism over rational discourse”

        Amen. I applaud your support of data over authority.

        “They all just quoted bullet points from various authorities”

        If those bullet points from authorities provide data, then they are valid arguments – regardless of the fact that they’re from authorities. Arguing against authority is the same sin as arguing for it.

        “At low concentrations, fluoridated water is not harmful to the general population, but is harmful to certain sub-populations.”

        And yet you provide no data, not even a single example, so you’re still arguing from the authority of the study you summarize.

        Aside from that, much of the resistance to F in Portland is based on environmental concerns (myths?) – Sierra Club was a leading opponent – about the effect of fluorine in the environment. I’m not seeing any data about that either.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Bunster/1108449235 Mark Bunster

        Peter, this is why you should leave science to the people who do it. The 2006 study did not address optimal CWF at all. It is irrelevant to the discussion. The study looked only at high-level sites, not optimally fluoridated ones

  • OBO

    I think it’s more complicated than “Portland is full of crazy anti-science paranoids.”

    1. Portland is very anti-establishment, and fluoridation was backed by tons of money from the start. (The Oregonian says they outraised the opposition 3-to-1.) They got off on the wrong foot by trying to do an end-run around voters through the council; when they got caught and the issue was put on the ballot, their initial ad blitz raised suspicions that turned those anti-establishment voters into anti-fluoridation activists on principle–and got a boost when a state official told the press fluoridation lobbyists pressured her on how to present positive dental health data.

    When a vote excludes the burbs like this one did, you are not going to win on successful fundraising–if anything, the 3-to-1 fundraising advantage for fluoridation advocates _hurt_ them, especially as it got out to the press, as it associates them with outside financial interests, not science.

    2. The vote was on the regional watershed, but the vote itself excluded the burbs. Nineteen cities outside of the voting area contract with the city for Bull Run’s water; about a third of the affected population would be paying for and receiving fluoridated water that they weren’t allowed to vote on. The burbs lobbied against the vote largely on overreach (they’re also in a pitched fight against expanding Portland’s light rail into the burbs), and small-government libertarians and voters
    on the geographic fringes of the polling area held with them.

    3. The vote was on fluoridation only–there was nothing else in the measure to provide even token efforts to improve dental care for the poor and young, which is a bigger and more visible problem. The opposition came up with a lot of persuasive data that fluoridation alone wasn’t going to improve dental health, and that the money spent on fluoridation would be better spent on improving access to regular dental care. There was also some backlash from the left for targeting the poor and PoC for fundraising without offering more comprehensive help.

    This is the group I’d pin the 11% swing on, as they would have jumped on fluoridation as part of a comprehensive city-powered dental health plan, but looked at fluoridation by itself as a waste of time and money. (For contrast, the same ballot had a renewal on a much more expensive levy to fund expansive city services for child abuse prevention, after-school activities, and foster care. It passed with 70% of the vote.)

    4. The craziest mainstream opposition was people hung up on the idea that Portland’s tap water tastes better than anyone else’s and believed fluoridation would affect that. But that included a rally of the very powerful food and beverage industries in Portland, many of which export their goods to fluoridated cities anyway.

    A lot of Portlanders who voted against fluoridation understand and agree with the science. The advocates just bungled the local politics of it from the very start.

    • kkloor

      Thats for providing that important perspective. It certainly makes this story out to be more nuanced than it has been reported.

    • jh

      “Portland is very anti-establishment”

      Ah, that’s a great reason to do something stupid.

      “fluoridation was backed by tons of money from the start.”

      According to NPR, $800K backed fluorine – still a bit short of a million (Dr. Evil might think that’s a lot of money but no one else does). $400K backed no fluorine, so no, not much money on either side.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Bunster/1108449235 Mark Bunster

      This isn’t borne out by analysis. The NO campaign spent no time on process, full time on chemical fearmongering. And the initiative started out running ahead, which contradicts any widespread sense of process outrage. This was a classic off-election where the zealots poisoned the well of debate and then preyed on the confusion they sowed while taking advantage of voters who couldn’t understand why it was so vital to vote yes on something so no controversial.

  • Bob Koss

    Glaringly missing from the Slate article is any comparison of the oral health of the people of Portland with other cities of similar size which have been using fluoridation for decades. Surely such a comparison would have been made, and presented front and center, if it showed the oral health of Portland’s population to be significantly poorer than other cities.

    If those supporting fluoridation can’t even demonstrate that, what justification is there for forcing the population to ingest such an additive and while adding to the tax burden of the citizens?

    Frankly, if I lived in Portland, I’d vote to disallow fluoridated water. Just on the principle the politicians tried to sneak the bill through when they knew from past experience it was a contentious subject.

    • OBO

      Part of the problem is that the CDC doesn’t track dental health statistics nationally, and what data is available is inconsistent and out of date: http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2013/apr/20/clean-water-portland/do-numbers-put-multnomah-co-par-15th-lowest-cavity/

      Portland and the state of Oregon mostly compare stats with Seattle and Vancouver (WA), both of which fluoridate and have lower rates of childhood dental issues.

      • Bob Koss

        The idea of intentionally putting medicine into the water supply bothers me. Of the few medicines I have taken over my lifetime, most were dosed according to small doses for small people larger doses for larger people. For fluoride they use one size fits all solution.

        Why should a 15 lb baby with no teeth be getting the same dosage as someone weighing 225 lbs? It makes no sense other than ease of distribution. There is no reason the effect should be the same for all. Who is getting the dirty end of the stick with regard to efficacy?

        The link OBO supplied discusses only children of ages 6-8 and it seems Portland came out fairly well. That is the time in life when most are starting to lose baby teeth and acquire permanent ones. Seems a poor time period to be studying rather than the long time period when people have their permanent teeth.

        If there really aren’t any credible long term studies 50 years into the experiment demonstrating efficacy across society, could that be due to having realized long ago that the benefits don’t actually outweigh costs?

        There are plenty of other ways for people to get their fluoride if they wish. I think it should be left to personal choice and not forced on society as a whole.

        • jh

          Mr. Koss: the “dose” of F necessary to improve dental health is so small that it does not matter if a baby or a friggin’ Wooly Mammoth or blue whale get the same “dose”. JHC, do you think the CDC hasn’t considered that?

          If your water is so pure and natural, what’s in it already? Doesn’t it bother you that babies and adults get the same “dose” of natural chlorine, sodium, boron, barium, magnesium, potassium, iron, arsenic, calcium, REE, U, Pb and all the other things that are in the water?

          Stay in Portland. Please.

        • kdk33

          Do babies and adults drink the same amount of water in Portland?

          • jh

            Does the the concentration of an impurity change depending on how much water you drink?

          • kdk33

            Are you serious?

            Can you do math?

          • jh

            True, a “dose” is an absolute amount so “dosage” depends on how much you consume. But health effects of chemicals are calibrated by concentration and EPA water standards are set by concentration:

            http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/fluoride.cfm

    • http://www.facebook.com/wilzardthespy William Post

      I grew up in a rural suburb or Portland, and have lived my entire adult life in the city of Portland. I voted for the fluoride measure to add it to our water.

      In regard to your other comment, at the very least the Oregon chapter of the National Dental Association and the CDC were running an add with statistics claiming (I never checked the source) that Portland has a 40% (iirc) higher rate of childhood rate of cavities and tooth decay than Seattle, even though the percentage of insured children was the same in both cities, the difference is, they claimed, Seattle fluoridates their water and Portland does not. I support fluoridation and did not check their statistics but I am confident they are out there.

  • Krissalee85

    Here is an interesting study on the neurological impacts of fluoride- http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi/. Yes, fluoride does occur naturally. However, the source of the fluoride in the U.S is thydrofluorosilicic acid, the waste product from China’s phosphate fertilizer industry. Is it really all that ludicrous to not want to be forced to drink this? People scream that those who do not want fluoride added to their water supply are anti-science. Really? The science to me screams that thydrofluorosilicic acid is not beneficial when consumed. If people want fluoride, there is a whole isle of it at your grocery store in the form of toothpaste and mouthwash.

    • AnonyMLA

      The study cited looks at levels of F far above FDA limits, so it is as relevant as me citing a study on drowning as a reason why you shouldn’t drink water in the first place. Secondly, the fact that a product in question is a byproduct of some other process is irrelevant as well. Would the well-documented benefits of F supplementation be somehow better if it were a byproduct of hipster glasses manufacturing or beer brewing? It is this sort of comment that proves the point of the article. By utilizing cherry-picked studies and playing to fears of industrial waste, you are dismissing reams of evidence that contradicts your view simply because it contradicts your view. That does not put you on the side of science. By definition, that is anti-science.

      • Krissalee85

        Please share the unbiased evidence that adding this form of unnaturally occurring fluoride to the water supply benefits all who drink it. And I mean evidence, not just thumbs up from the ADA and CDC.

        • Krissalee85

          Should antidepressants be added to the water supply as well? It may benefit some, after all.

          It is not as though this is a nutrient that is being debated. It is an unnatural, unnecessary additive derived from chemical waste. WHY would anybody give a thumbs up to drinking this? This is not the same pharmaceutical grade fluoride source- sodium fluoride- that has been tested. Show me the studies that have shown hydrofluorosilicic acid to be of mass benefit to our dental health.

      • Krissalee85

        Silicofluoride-treated water and blood lead levels- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11233755

  • http://www.facebook.com/wilzardthespy William Post

    I live in Portland. I can assure you, a very big part of it is the naturalistic fallacy. Portlanders, in general, love their nature. They feel that nature is better when it is unsullied by human presence or activity. My aunt, for example, even being a practicing RN, is unable to understand that there is zero difference chemically between fluoride that occurs naturally and fluoride that is “industrial waste”. Somehow, the fluoride atoms, passing through a factory, become tainted with technology toxins and become poison or something. (The same thing never happens with H2O, however.)
    Portland has a very strong anti-GMO presence as well, and it stems from the same basic thing.
    This is one of the few things that makes me ashamed to live in Portland.

    • Krissalee85

      How is it known that there is zero difference between naturally occurring fluoride and that which is derived from industrial waste? The studies that show any benefit from fluoride are referring to sodium fluoride, not hydrofluorosilicic acid. Where are the studies supporting hydrofluorosilicic acid?

  • jh

    Well, Keith, from the “anti-science” perspective, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that people are often “anti-science” on one issue and “pro-science” on another issue. In other words, when it suits their fancy or provides a rationale, they’re happy to use it; if not, they’ll simply claim they have the scientific high ground even though they don’t.

    You’re conflicted on Portland because, as a member of the Environmental Concerned Community, Portland is near and dear to your heart, a kind of Bethlehem of environmentalism. But are you really conflicted, or are you just searching for the rational that will allow you to go the way you want to go, to claim that Portland, after all, still holds the scientific high ground?

    But the real upshot is that there is no such thing as pro-science or anti-science – because science isn’t a fixed reference. If I hold the same view for several decades, it may be “anti-science” in one decade and “pro-science” in the next. And that leads us to the real question: is it better to be “pro-science” or to be right?

  • Matt B

    KK I think you could rename the blog Collide-a-faith since that’s what many of your columns discuss; people with strong positions that they have taken on faith. The religious get a fair amount of heat for accepting certain beliefs of faith. I have no issue with them taking that heat; certainly teaching Creationism is ridiculous to me, you can do that voodoo on your own time. But, I will credit many religious people with this: they openly state “I am a person of faith; I believe XYZ on faith”. I may not agree, and I may think their ideas dopey, but at least they admit they believe in things that they don’t understand.

    I have much less patience with those that also believe on faith but are too obtuse to realize this. The fact that many of these folks believe they are mentally superior beings simply because they don’t subscribe to religious faith makes them that much more irritating. Portland is a city full of these irritating people………….

    • jh

      “The fact that many of these folks believe they are mentally superior beings simply because they don’t subscribe to religious faith makes them that much more irritating. ”

      Ooo! Don’t leave Seattle out just because they have fluorine in their water!

  • http://rabahrahil.com/ Rabah Rahil

    I keep seeing “studies show” what studies? Can I see some empirical evidence to support this claim? If it is such a no brainer, and people are “anti-science” if you believe ingesting fluoride is bad or at the very least has no effect on their dental health, then where are the “scientific” studies that show this?

    • Krissalee85

      Exactly! If people arguing for fluoride here actually had a scientific mindset, they would find numerous studies showing that there is in fact a difference in natural and unnatural fluoride and the benefits of hydrofluorosilicic acid are null, while the disadvantages of it are significant. All people have to do is google hydrofluorosilicic acid. It is much easier to simply trust what the ADA and CDC tell us though.

  • jh

    Oh, man. I just took my first-ever tour of Grist. What a hoot.

  • kdk33

    Liberals drink water in bottles from “pure natural springs with minerals & stuff”. Homeless people can’t afford bottled water. Toothless homeless people are less dangerous than than the biting kind. Portland likes their homeless people harmless.

    It all makes sense.

  • truth_and_justice

    This piece is a great example of “pack journalism” at its worst — a group of online bloggers citing each others’ simple-minded analyses of the fluoride issue as support for their worldview-confirming conclusion that anyone opposed to fluoridation is (pick your adjective): irrational, loony, anti-scientific, moronic, idiotic.

    It doesn’t take too much digging, however, to realize that the “anti-fluoride = anti-science” meme is grossly simplistic. For an intelligent discussion of the fluoride debate, by a *real science journalist*, I recommend Dan Fagin’s article in Scientific American: http://www.fluoridealert.org/uploads/fagin-2008.pdf

    As the saying goes, an ugly fact can destroy a beautiful theory. In opting not to discuss the ugly facts with fluoride, Kloor, and his blogging friends, have engaged in theory maintenance, not journalism. To learn more about the “other side” of the fluoride debate, I recommend: http://www.fluoridealert.org

  • dljvjbsl

    I grew up in a university town in Canada. There was a massive fluoridation debate in the early 1960s. The same sort of claims of health benefits and dangers were made then as now. After an acrimonious debate in which the dangers of fluoridation were widely claimed, the city council decided to fluoridate the water supply. Tests were then made on the water and the discovery was made that the water was naturally fluoridated

  • Johntomins

    Picture describes what happens to the Humanity in next 50 years

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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