Fluoridation VS. A Junk Food Tax

By elona trogub

In this twisted world of ours, the solutions that most often move forward are those that end up creating a whole new set of problems. Dr. Robert Kehoe, the scientist who convinced the world that the use of leaded gasoline was safe (which has since been phased out of use due to extreme toxicity to our environment and health) was one of two scientists who also worked to convince us that fluoride in public drinking water is safe.

According to the book, The Fluoride Deception by Christopher Bryson, 98% of Western Europe does not fluoridate its water. They put it in their table salt, instead. With many Western European countries supporting socialized medicine, one would expect these countries to take measures to decrease dental costs through “simple solutions” like fluoridation, but they do not. Bryson also points to the efforts of Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, known as “the father of public relations”, in helping get fluoride into communities across the United States.

Bernays was also instrumental in getting women to smoke cigarettes, likening them to “torches of freedom” during the Women’s Right to Vote movement of the early 1900’s. The BBC documentary, Century of the Self, explains Bernays’ role in the engineering of public consent and pinpoints when Americans went from being involved citizens to passive consumers thanks to the work of Edward Bernays. Now Portlanders are being pressured to consume yet another unneeded and potentially harmful service – fluoridation of our drinking water. But is the real battle to be fought with cavities or cavity causers?

With kale being touted as the new bacon by many foodies, it leads me to believe that the idea of taking care of our bodies is finally entering the mainstream. Here in Cascadia, TV, junk food and soft drinks–once considered the epitome of Western decadence–are being replaced by bicycling and green smoothies. Cavity sufferers know that their eating and hygiene habits are to blame. One does not get cavities by eating a healthy diet and taking care of their mouth. Not flossing, not brushing, eating sugar and drinking sweet acidic carbonated beverages are the true cavity culprits.

Portland is the last large city to have unfluoridated water and now several of Portland’s decision makers including Randy Leonard, head of Portland’s Water Bureau, are insisting that our water be fluoridated, too, on the basis that it will prevent cavities. The ironically named Upstream Public Health, the Portland group lobbying for fluoridation, is partnered with an extensive list of coalitions and other health and food groups around Oregon, including the Soda Tax Coalition.

The city estimates that fluoridating Portland’s water supply would cost roughly $5 million to install with a yearly operating cost of $500,000. Instead of addressing the problem head on, by taxing cavity causing foods, they opt to lobby for another costly “solution”. Obviously partnering with Upstream Public Health doesn’t mean they’ll push for your cause.  As citizens, we must ask ourselves: Do we throw more money at the problem, money that we don’t even have? Or do we feed two birds from one hand and empower children to make healthier food choices?

Illustration by Amgad Wadea

The subsidies junk food companies currently receive allow their products to be extremely affordable, and they use that extra income to produce a myriad of commercials constantly pushing junk food on Americans and Cascadians alike. McDonald’s, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, and the rest don’t care about your health–they only care about their bottom line. And when there’s a problem, public officials who sit firmly in the pockets of these corporations find solutions by spending more of your money creating quick fixes.

Fluoridating Portland’s water does not actually address cavities. It simply puts a glossy coat on a much deeper problem. If politicians had the gall to actually stop subsidizing junk food-like substances, we’d not only save money as individuals on things like dental care, we’d save money as a society on the entire healthcare infrastructure.

If Portland truly wants to show it cares about dental health, and health overall, then the solution should not be to throw millions at fluoridation but to earn millions while unmasking the true cost of junk food. Fluoride consumption should be a choice, not a mandate. And for those that believe the research that fluoride is a mind-controlling and IQ-lowering substance, we must also ask ourselves, “How will we keep Portland weird?”


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  5 comments for “Fluoridation VS. A Junk Food Tax

  1. portland lover
    August 17, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Check out the Upstream website: http://www.upstreampublichealth.org/issues/food-nutrition

    Food & Nutrition and School Health are major priorities of Upstream Public Health.

    “Upstream introduced and helped win passage of Oregon school nutrition standards on foods and beverages sold outside school meals in 2007.”

    Upstream Public Health also helped pass the statewide menu labeling law and is currently working on farm-to-school projects.

    “Sugary Beverage Limits – Upstream works with a coalition of state partners exploring options for decreasing soda consumption, which increasing amounts of research is showing to be a major contributing factor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.”

  2. Susan Miller
    August 17, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    Thank you so much for your comments about the real villain behind the cavities. I have written a 9 page article about the history and health effects of fluoride and am trying to organize a coalition of people to protest (respectfully) the seemingly inevitable stupidity of the city council. We need to create a petition, to say the least, and to organize to protest this irresponsible move. Thanks for making it down to earth – both junk food and costs. Please let me know if you could or would like to help others to organize. I have contacted several organizations today that are involved in public health. Thanks so much. Susan

  3. Emma Inbedwidam
    August 24, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Seems that “upstream public heath” 501c3 spends a lot of cash on legislation and should be registered lobby group. Their IRS form 990 shows their 2010 revenue over $450,000. They have many Kaiser connections, and I’m guessing that pays their way in some part. This centrist approach would explain why they avoid true and radical reform. Label junk food rather than tax it. Rather than demand universal heath and dental care, go for the feel good easy sell of Fluoride in water. Preserve the highly profitable industries of insurance, claims, and claims denial.

  4. August 26, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    I agree with Emma and Elona.

    “Upstream Public Heath” is the major group behind the fluoridation of our great Portland water.

    I feel that there are some behind the scenes, big money players behind this. Let’s not forget Nestle wants our water. Maybe Nestle wants us to fluoridate it for them? I have no proof of this yet, but I suspect, as this issue is explored fully over time, the poop will rise to the surface.

    They are trying to ram-rod past the citizens via the City Council and the Mayor without a vote from the citizens. Ask yourselves why?

    We voted it down three times and we’ll do it again.

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