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I was a central figure in the campaign in Portland to fluoridate the water supply.  I am proud of the difference it will make in the health of kid's teeth.  But, I am also disturbed by the twisting of facts by a left-wing fringe.

I have always thought of the Democratic party and the left-wing as on the side of science.  In climate change, the left wing has defended our scientists who overwhelmingly say climate change is happening and it will have severe consequences.  In economic science, the left-wing has adhered to the facts on balancing budgets and promoting job creation.

But, in Portland, the left-wing has been split down the middle related to fluoridation.  But, the science of fluoridation is all on one side of the issue.  

Every major, credible health organization that has taken a position has endorsed fluoridation.  This issue has been studied to death.  Pew has identified more than 3,000 studies that have been done on fluoridation.  A half dozen expert reviews have been completed demonstrating its safety.  In addition, it has been shown to save about $38 for every $1 invested. This should be a no-brainer for all left-wingers.

Yet, in Portland, after we worked our butts off to bring fluoridation to a vote of the city council and gained unanimous support, along with supportive statements from the Governor, and all five County Commissioners, all of whom are liberal - walking out of the city council building felt like I was walking into a violent mob.  People yelled in my face and said I was poisoning their children.  People shoved us around.  The passions were as intense as related to abortion or gay marriage.  But, the sad thing is that the passions were based on misinformation, and they all came from the left-wing.

This should be a warning to the left-wing that we have our own blinders.  Progressives can be overly distrustful of industry to the point of craziness.  A significant percentage of Portlanders seem to believe that organizations as diverse as Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control are all bought out by chemical companies.  And, my organization with a mission to improve the health of Oregonians is actually just a shill for the chemical interests.  We've gotten emails and phone calls from people saying they will burn down our office.

I think it is time that we get past this, and the left-wing learns to recognize and clean up its own craziness.  We need to trust in the scientific establishment to interpret complicated data and provide clear conclusions about what the science means.  And, again, every single major health organization has said fluoridation is safe and very effective at reducing tooth decay.

The alternative is unfounded fears.  Too many people in Oregon and elsewhere are refusing to vaccinate their kids, even though this is a critical public health practice.  And, as we speak, a group of Portlanders are collecting signatures to overturn the good work that we've done to benefit the dental health of Portlanders.  And, sadly, the Occupy Portland movement has fallen into this craziness.

We have more important fights to win.  We need to band together to use good science to advocate for the economic, environmental and health rights of the needy.  We need to have a better analysis around the true special interests that are keeping the poor in their place, and changing the very climate systems that keep our planet habitable.  The left-wing needs to be the party of enlightenment, not the party of fear and conspiracy theories.  We're better than this.

Originally posted to melrader on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 11:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Science Matters.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rick Perry and the HPV Vaccine (9+ / 0-)

    I live in Texas and I felt a bit of this when the Democratic side was attacking Perry for supporting mandatory HPV vaccinations. I mean, we've found some of what we've been looking for for a long long time, cures for cancers. Time to use them.

    I did not vote for either.

  •  Anti-fluoridation CTs big among Ron Paul loons (7+ / 0-)

    I've heard plenty of anti-fluoridation talk from 2 ROn Paul loons I know. They must be circulating this BS among themselves. These CT's date back decades. The John Birch Society used to think fluoridation was a soviet plot to poison America. Ron Paul's followers simply recycled a lot of these old CT's, along with their usual CFR, trilateral commission, Rothschilds, Bilderberger, freemason CT's.

  •  thx for your good work melrader (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yaque, ardyess, kyril, palantir, murrayewv, Wee Mama

    and agreed, sometimes the left gets too wrapped up in crazy...

  •  you might collect a little list... (12+ / 0-)

    There are places which naturally have more fluoride in the water supply than is permissible in city water.  Next time they get in your face, hand them the research, tell them they can check for themselves, and ask them about the rate of whatever their pet cause is in that town.

    We perform these experiments on ourselves all the time.  Most people are unaware of this.

    •  Where I live some wells have so much (0+ / 0-)

      fluoride naturally it turns kids' teeth brown -- indeed, makes 'em look, by the late teens / early 20s, as if they chew tobacco.

      Cavities are pretty rare though.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 01:14:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  being too far out on either fringe - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Praxical, palantir, Andrew F Cockburn

    left or right - certainly improves tin hat sales.....

    I do think that this scale for measuring this is more of a circle rather than a line. So at the place farthest from the from the center, in either direction, has those eventually all arriving at the same place, and thus the same goals, even though there are different directions of getting there.  And this fluoride is a good example.  Even though the right at present isn't screaming about this, give them time.....

    And of course everyone is entitled to think what they want, but it can be a shame. It would be wonderful is there were a good answer as to how this can be prevented.  

    :)

     

    •  This. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ardyess, palantir, BlackSheep1

      Some people just seem to trend towards crazy, no matter what side they're on.

    •  It's not distance on the scale... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ardyess, palantir, Wee Mama

      it's how you get there.

      It's entirely possible to arrive at a political perspective that's relatively quite far left by American standards through mostly rational, historically- and scientifically-based reasoning. There are very solid arguments for policies like Basic Income, for instance - and supporting that alone would put you on the 'fringe left' regardless of your other positions.

      It's also entirely possible to arrive on the 'fringe' through CT-style thinking. And it may be easier to get there that way.

      Simply being on the 'fringe' itself doesn't necessarily make you more susceptible to CTs. If anything, I would argue that the causal link goes in the other direction. (And the same is probably true on the right, though I do have trouble thinking of a rationally-derivable 'fringe' RW idea.)

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 04:12:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. The validity of a single (0+ / 0-)

        idea doesn't depend on whether it's old or new, right or left. But we on the left generally value critical thinking and empiricism, so it's a shock when they are absent.

        The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

        by emidesu on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 04:30:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  anti-vaccination CT is also loose... (6+ / 0-)

    ... on the left as well as on the right.  There are high rates of "personal objections" in liberal areas of California as well as in predominantly Republican areas.   There were even a few anti-vaxxers on DK until Markos made that a bannable offense.

    People who are paranoid about fluoride have to pay out of their own pockets for bottled water.   In effect they're paying a Stoopid Tax.  

    It would be a good thing to find a way to make anti-vaxxers pay a Stoopid Tax.  For example:

    Limit the number of "personal exemptions" to 1/2 of the percentage that (along with legitimate medical exemptions) would begin to be a risk to herd immunity.  And then auction them.  Auction off those personal exemptions and sell them to the highest bidders in each locale.   Once the available supply has been auctioned, that's all there'll be for that year, and everyone else has to get their shots.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 01:47:30 AM PDT

    •  G2geek: that's how I feel about the lottery (0+ / 0-)

      "pay out of their own pockets ... paying a Stoopid Tax."

      But damn, it's fun to dream what I'd do with the money if I won.

      I only ever bought a ticket once. It wasn't the one to get me a 1998 Dodge Ram pickup, but that $2 wasn't going to change my world much anyhow (I found a $20 in the street a couple days before).

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 01:16:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "And our precious bodily fluids"- Gen. Jack Ripper (5+ / 0-)

    Anti-fluoridation was brilliantly lampooned in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. To those of us here in the reality-based community, resistance to fluoridation (and even more dangerous, to vaccination) is genuinely frightening evidence that America is reverting to superstition and flat-out craziness.

    I keep thinking of the scene in Monte Python & the Holy Grail, wherein the illiterate toothless villagers are debating how to determine if a captured girl is a witch.
    (Paraphrased)
    "Throw 'er in the water. If she floats, she's a witch."
    "But wood floats. That's not a witch."
    "Ducks float".
    "Are ducks made 'o wood?".

    Crazed outbursts against fluoridation & vaccines exist on the same plane of lunacy.

  •  Thank you for stating these sadly, increasingly... (4+ / 0-)

    ...obvious facts.

    I think it is time that we get past this, and the left-wing learns to recognize and clean up its own craziness.  We need to trust in the scientific establishment to interpret complicated data and provide clear conclusions about what the science means.
    I have long been a cynical person, but when the blogosphere began to evolve I learned how unreasonable members of our party can be; how contemptuous of science, I really became frightened for the future of our country and our world.

    Regrettably, I very much doubt that any of this will change.   There seems to be a giant human flaw which latches on to dogma and fear.

    I've just accepted it at this point, rather as one might accept a terminal cancer diagnosis at some point.

    I wish that the only consequence would be poor dental health, but it is far, far, far deeper and far more intractable.

    But thanks again.

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, NNadir

    tip'd, rec'd, and republished to Science Matters

  •  There are plenty of topics that are hot-button (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebohlman, Frank Knarf

    issues for many progressives, where it is impossible to have a rational conversation based on science. Nuclear power, GMO crops, food irradiation, and fracking are all ones that I have given up trying to discuss.

    I am sure I have my own set of preconceptions that I won't give up on despite any logical arguments in opposition. I don't know what they are, because I know my position is always correct and so anyone else is irrational and wrong.

  •  I think you are overly sanguine about the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebohlman

    embrace of rationality by the left.  Generally speaking, people are happy to accept scientific findings when they support their ideological preconceptions.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 08:11:44 AM PDT

  •  You're right (0+ / 0-)

    The more fluoride the better. Right?

  •  Fluoride--it was probably already in your water (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm

    After reading the City of Portland's 2012 Water Quality report, you've got a maximum of 0.16ppm of Fluoride coming into your plants.

    Even without fluoridation, the tap water will still have fluoride and probably has had a fair amount in the decades leading up to the implementation of the program.

    In other cities like mine, our source water coming into a few plants is nearly at the level we want to distribute (0.5 to 0.7ppm).

    The MCL of fluoride is 4ppm and that's a pretty low number; your fluoridation program will bring you up to about 1ppm or 25% the MCL.

    In other words, they've probably lived their entire lives drinking naturally fluoridated water at a level not too far below what you'll be adding with your fluoridation program.

  •  Thanks for the good work melrader. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure it makes sense to think about this in left/right terms. Especially here in Portland where most of us are pretty liberal. Our vaccination rates are alarmingly low too, including some of my daughters friends. I haven't talked to her friends parents about fluoride, but I'd guess they're against it.
    You start with a strong distrust of authority, a lack of understanding of science, and throw in a good dose of magical thinking. You end up with basically good liberal people who have trouble evaluating the difference between corporate lies and actual science based information, so they reject it all. I do think they are motivated by actual concern for their children. And no, I don't have a solution, just sympathy for the children.

    Here's your horoscope for today: The universe doesn't even know that you exist.--Jbou

    by greycat on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 09:58:25 AM PDT

  •  Chris Mooney has an interesting take on this. (0+ / 0-)

    The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality devotes a full chapter to the left's lunatic fringe, though of course (naturally!) most of the book is about right-wingers.

  •  A friend once described his anti-vaccine (0+ / 0-)

    stand as based on skepticism toward authority. Wish people would realize science is as anti-authoritarian as it gets.

    The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

    by emidesu on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 04:35:39 PM PDT

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