Memories of Tom McCall

Posted & filed under Fluoride, Oral Health, and Access to Care.

Oregon is a state where fluoridation has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent years. It has a very low rate of water fluoridation and some alarmingly high rates of tooth decay among children. If you have never lived in Oregon, you probably have no idea who Tom McCall is. He served two terms as the state’s governor, from 1967 to 1975. He cared deeply about environmental health and dental health.

Before he entered politics, McCall was a journalist who produced a documentary on pollution that helped spur environmental clean-up efforts. He cared deeply about the environment and even relied on a kerosene lamp in the governor’s office to read correspondence — his way of drawing attention to the energy crisis in 1973. Oregon Public Broadcasting has observed the 100th anniversary of McCall’s birth by noting that he “championed a number of progressive laws” as governor, “most famously the Bottle Bill, and new land use regulations.”

Tom McCall was also a strong supporter of community water fluoridation. In this 1969 speech to Oregon legislators, Gov. McCall cited the “tremendous advantages” of fluoridation and said that this health practice had not been adopted more widely across the state “because the minority of activists has blown up a storm of unscientific evidence to distort perspective and paralyze progress.”

In a May ballot initiative, Portland voters will be asked to decide whether their public water system is fluoridated. If he were alive today, one could imagine that McCall would be speaking out — setting the record straight about fluoridation and the crucial role it plays in protecting dental health for people of all ages.