As environmental, community health and social justice advocates, we understand the importance of finding solutions to address our community’s gravest disparities that also are safe for the environment and help our economy.
We have done our homework, and the science is clear: Water fluoridation is a safe, effective and affordable public health option that will improve the health of our community, particularly the most vulnerable among us.
We love Portland. We love the rich, natural environment and the strong environmental spirit here. We love the desire to be unique and, at times, contrarian. But these values must not come at the expense of our children’s health, especially when the science is clear and there is consensus that this is a safe and effective option that benefits everyone.
Make no mistake: we are in a dental health crisis. Half our kids in Multnomah County have cavities, and those from poorer families and families of color are most at risk. Our children have 40 percent more decay than kids in Seattle, where the water is fluoridated.
Yes, our oral health is slowly improving, a positive trend, but when more than 50 percent of our children have cavities, this should not be a reason to celebrate. Our kids deserve better.
We can all agree that we must address root causes: basic access to dental and health insurance, reducing sugar consumption, and improved personal dental care. But not every family has the privilege of access or alternatives, and for a crisis of this magnitude, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the available tools.
Water fluoridation is such a tool, and we need it desperately. Dental health should be available to everyone, not just those with insurance. Fluoridating the water ensures that every family has access to this incredibly important cavity prevention measure, regardless of income, ethnicity or education level. This is the kind of Portland we want to live in.
There have been more than 3,700 studies on the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation. Communities across the country have been fluoridating water for more than 65 years, and currently more than 70 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water daily.
In fact, Portland is the largest city in the country without fluoridated water — and our children are paying the price. Every major trusted health organization, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fully supports water fluoridation.
By contrast, there is not a single study showing that optimally fluoridated water hurts salmon, habitat or the environment, let alone people. By sharing the small price to set up the system, we can distribute the benefits of dental health protection across our community.
We support fluoridation because we’ve benefited from it, and want our children to benefit as well. We know it is safe for the environment, and important for our economy and our community.
Let’s rise above the fear and myth spreading and be proud of a Portland that can celebrate our uniqueness as well as our commitment to protecting our children. Visit http://www.HealthyKidsHealthyPortland to learn more.
Nichole Maher is chief executive officer of the Northwest Health Foundation and Jonathan Ostar is director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School.
Source: Portland Tribune