Do you feel like you know enough about fluoride to make an educated decision about whether it should be in your water?
PORTLAND – Portland Mayor Sam Adams on Wednesday issued an explanation of why he supports the fluoridation of Portland’s water and why commissioners are moving ahead with the plan without a primary vote.
"Oregon children have more than double the rate of untreated tooth decay (35%) as in Washington state (15%),” in what Adams called a dental health “crisis.”
Multnomah County commissioners who support the plan cited a Centers for Disease Control 2011 study that attributed $38 in dental treatment savings for every $1 spent on fluoridation. Adams stated Oregon children suffer from higher rates of tooth decay than all neighboring states.
The Portland Council was set to take public input on the plan beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The City Council was expected to take a final vote on the proposal on Wednesday September 12.
Opponents of the plan said fluoride is an industrial byproduct that contains arsenic, lead and mercury, which can lead to neurological and potentially other health problems.
A rally against fluoridation was set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
The group said fluoride is an industrial byproduct, unregulated by the FDA. But as such, it is subject to Environmental Protection Agency regulations that do not allow its disposal in waterways or landfills.
“There are a lot of things about these compounds that we don’t know,” Kimberly Kaminski with Clean Water Portland said. “Airborne emissions, other dental products and a lot of other sources – how can we prescribe a drug that’s totally unregulated?”
A coalition called “Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth” includes over 75 education organizations, health institutions and community nonprofits supporting the plan.
Adams announced last month that he would join commissioners Randy Leonard and Nick Fish in supporting the effort. That gives supporters of fluoridation a majority on the five-member council.
Kaminski’s said her group tried to meet with the mayor a year ago over the issue but they were denied a meeting, and that now, the plan was set to be passed through before they could even get their petition on a primary ballot.
“At 6 p.m. on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, Leonard announced as of March 2014, fluoride would be flowing,” Kaminski said. "That is two months before a petition could be filed for a primary vote."
Petition: Clean Water Portland
Adams said in his statement that the council was moving forward without looking to voters because “We care about public health and believe this is the right thing to do. Most public health decisions are made by elected officials, like: motorcycle helmet and seatbelt laws, smoke-free workplaces, and nutrition standards for schools.”
“When the majority of the City Council has already announced how they are going to vote before even hearing from opponents in an extremely rushed public hearing then there’s nothing else you can call this but a subversion of the democratic process,” Kaminski said.
“Both the construction of the system and the fluoride supply will be put out for public bid in a very proscribed and transparent fashion,” Adams said.