The residents of the largest city in the country without fluoridated water may have a chance, once again to vote on an issue that, according to a poll in the Oregonian to which 1,395 responded, a razor thin majority (50.46%) supports.
When Mayor Sam Adams recently joined Commissioners Nick Fish and Randy Leonard in supporting fluoridation it created the three to five majority needed for city council approval. Leonard said he will bring the measure up for a vote in September.
Even if the council approves the measure opponents could initiate a referendum which would require 19,858 signatures to put it on a ballot.
Portland voters have been down that road before, defeating it three times in the past, first in 1956 with 58 percent of the vote, in 1962 with 69 percent and in 1980 with 54 percent. Surprisingly In 1978, some voters changed their minds and 51 percent supported fluoridation,
The Portland water system supports about 900,000 customers many of whom are in the cities of Gresham, Tigard and Tualatin. Water officials said a water fluoridation facility would cost around $5 million.
Discussion of the proposal has been hot and heavy with letters to the editor flooding local newsrooms. Councilman Fish voiced the basic argument of those favoring fluoridation, “It is a safe, cost-effective and common sense approach to protecting public health.”
One supporter wrote to the Oregonian: “Lets be clear – fluoride is not a medication. It is a mineral, and when present at the right level, fluoride in drinking water has two beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay and contributing to healthy bones.”
But two letters in the Portland Tribune strongly disagreed. One said this: “After 67 years of water fluoridation, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 60% of 12-15 year-olds are affected with fluoride overdose symptoms – dental fluorosis, white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth. Yet, the CDC says more young kids face cavity crisis in US.”
The other said this: “Pay attention that the dentists and doctors all say fluoride yet it is hydrofluorosilicic acid they use which is a toxic waste that cannot be put into the air, rivers or streams in Florida yet can be put in a tanker truck right to your drinking water.”
As far as the World Health Organization is concerned, “Excessive fluoride intake can cause dental and skeletal fluorosis.” It recommends a maximum of 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in drinking water.