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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 08 February 2013

Clean Water Portland hosts Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Yolanda Whyte, current member of the National Medical Association's Environmental Health Task Force, speaking on the impact of fluoride on children's health.

The events are Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Portland State University, Room 236 in the Smith Memorial Student Union, 7 p.m.; and Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Emmanuel Temple Church, 1033 N. Sumner St., 7 p.m.

Whyte, a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, opposes water fluoridation, and will talk about why the federal government recommends against using fluoridated water in baby formula, why she believes that African American and Latino kids suffer disproportionate ill effects from the practice, and what impact it might have on diabetics and people with kidney and liver disease.

Another question Whyte will discuss is how fluoride fits in with other environmental chemicals placing an increasing health burden on kids.
 Check out the Pew research center campaign for children's dental health here.
The City of Portland is set to vote on adding fluoride to the water supply in a special election May 21, after what may be the most divisive series of hearings in city history.

Hundreds of advocates, both pro-and anti-fluoride, crammed into City Hall last year when the Council held hearings on the issue – and commissioners endured significant criticism when they voted to fluoridate the water system. Within weeks activists were able to complete a successful petition drive to place fluoridation on the ballot.

On Dec. 20,  City Council's last vote of 2012 was to move the election forward a year to May of 2013. Amanda Fritz voted against moving it, saying "it wasn't in the public's interest to change the date and that voters deserved more time for discussion."

States around the nation -- including areas with fluoridated water -- are struggling with a crisis in oral health impacting people of all ages. 

The New York Times last year, after publishing a yearlong series on the issue, criticized government health officials, whom it said "need to provide consistent, more up-to-date guidelines for the best levels of fluoridation, reflecting the latest research."

Meanwhile, Washington State legislators early this week held a public hearing on the lack of preventive oral health care for children and at-risk communities around the state.

Washington, where almost all water supplies are fluoridated but a few are not, is considering House Bill 1516 and its companion legislation, SB 5433, that would look at creating a new labor sector in dental health as a way to improve overall access to dental services.

If passed the bills would "bring an evidence-based dental provider to our state: a licensed dental practitioner who can free dentists to extend care to underserved communities."

The bills are sponsored by more than a dozen state senators and representatives, all Democrats.

The Washington State Dental Association has taken a stand against the two bills, suggesting "better alternatives to dental therapists including dental residency programs and reinstating adult dental Medicaid funding."

Lawmakers and advocates, however, are not only promoting a workforce solution, but in some areas are suggesting more diversity among workers in the dental health industry is a significant issue.

"Across the state, our dental care system is failing children and working parents in low-income families, elderly people in nursing homes, people with special needs and people who live in rural and Tribal communities," the bills' language says.

"During a recent 18-month period, dozens of Washington emergency rooms recorded a total of 54,000 visits for dental treatment that could have been avoided earlier. Those visits cost taxpayers more than $35 million."

"Washington residents lack access to a cost effective means of getting the oral health care they need," says Rep. Eileen Cody, one of HB 1516's House sponsors. "It's high time for dentists to gain the freedom to look after the needs of more people across our state." 

For more information about the Washington Dental Access Campaign go to www.wadentalaccess.com.

For more info on Yolanda Whyte, go to http://www.yolandawhytemd.com.





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