For release Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Stu Oishi – ph: 503.823.4682
Portland, OR—Buoyed by strong support from fellow commissioners and a growing community coalition, Commissioner Randy Leonard has scheduled a public hearing on water fluoridation on September 6.
“We have an opportunity to give all children in Portland an equal shot at healthy teeth just by drinking tap water,” Leonard says. “I’ve reviewed the science and talked with the Water Bureau, and it’s obvious that water fluoridation is the safest, most effective and most affordable answer to our dental health crisis.”
Leonard wanted to give his fellow commissioners time to consider fluoridation before moving ahead. After Commissioners Nick Fish and Mayor Sam Adams expressed their support last week, Leonard scheduled the hearing.
“I’ve long been personally supportive of fluoridation,” Leonard continued. “My commitment was to bring this matter forward if a majority of my colleagues agreed. That is clearly now the case, and I am very pleased we can take this long-overdue step.”
Oregon is in a dental health crisis. We have the fifth-worst rate of childhood tooth decay, largely because of the lack of fluoridated water. Two-thirds of Oregon children have had a cavity by third grade, and one in five has “rampant decay”: seven or more cavities. Dental emergencies are the leading type of preventable visit to area Emergency Departments. All children are affected, but those from communities of color and lower income communities are hit especially hard. High rates of tooth decay compromise children’s overall health, hinder their learning and pose a tremendous financial burden for families, schools, and healthcare systems.
Fluoridation is the most cost-effective answer to the dental health crisis; for every $1 invested in fluoridation, cities save about $38 in dental expenses. In Portland, that adds up to more than $21 million in savings each year. This is an incredible return on investment. The one-time cost of implementation is just $5 per person on average, with an average annual cost of $0.61 cents per person. The lifetime per-person cost is about $50; in contrast, a single cavity costs $2000 to treat over the lifetime.
More than 200 million people across the country drink fluoridated water, which is proven to reduce decay by at least 25 percent in adults and children, over and above dental hygiene, diet, and dental health care.
Water fluoridation makes a difference. Oregon children have more than twice the rate of untreated tooth decay (35%) as children in Washington State (15%), which is largely fluoridated.
Fluoridation has been studied for over 60 years in thousands of studies. The overwhelming evidence shows optimal levels of fluoridation are safe for people and the environment. That is why water fluoridation is endorsed by every major national health organization, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. More than 70 local health, education, and social justice organizations, including Oregon Head Start, OHSU, and the Coalition of Communities of Color, have joined together in the Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth Coalition to ask for water fluoridation.
The hearing will be held at 2:00 P.M. on September 6, 2012, in the Portland City Hall Council Chambers.
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