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Supplement to the City Club of Portland Bulletin Vol. 95, No. 34; April 11, 2013

CITY OF PORTLAND MEASURE 26-151: Fluoridation of Portland Drinking Water Supply

Executive Summary

Measure 26-151 requires Portland to fluoridate the City’s drinking water supply at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Oregon Health Authority, and is intended to reduce tooth decay and promote oral health.

Proponents of Measure 26-151 point to the health benefits of water fluoridation, including reducing cavities in all age groups, particularly with people of lower incomes who may be unable to afford adequate dental care. The cost of water fluoridation in Portland is estimated to be about $5 million in start-up project costs and $500,000 annually. Proponents maintain that decreased dental costs for all citizens and improved dental health make this a wise investment. Proponents rely on over 65 years of experience in other localities that have benefitted from fluoridated water, and on research demonstrating that fluoridation is safe and effective.

Opponents of Measure 26-151 raise concerns about possible long-term negative health effects from ingesting fluoride and suggest alternative means of reducing tooth decay. These include fluoride applications like tablets, toothpastes and rinses, as well as changes in diet. Opponents also argue that there may be adverse environmental effects from adding fluoride to the drinking water. Additionally, opponents argue against water fluoridation because Portland residents who do not want fluoridated water will have little choice but to accept it if the measure passes. Finally, opponents argue that communities that buy their water from Portland will not have an opportunity to vote on the measure.


Majority Recommendation:

The majority recommends voting for Measure 26-151 because of the prevalence of dental health issues in Portland and the proven effectiveness of water fluoridation in substantially reducing the incidence of tooth decay. The general scientific consensus and 65 years of experience in other communities demonstrate that fluoride is safe at the recommended level (0.7 ppm [parts per million]) that will be implemented in Portland’s water supply, and that this is an effective way to reduce dental cavities and to promote dental health in an equitable manner. Water fluoridation would provide a great health benefit to the Portland community.

The majority recommends a “YES” vote on Measure 26-151.

Minority Recommendation:

The minority recommends voting against measure 26-151 because of the potential overexposure to fluoride for some members of the population that may occur at the recommended level of 0.7 ppm in drinking water. The minority feels that fluoridating the public water supply will be done without the informed consent of some portion of the Portland population. Further, the minority believes that fluoride, used to reduce cavities, is best administered in a doctor’s or dentist’s office where an individual’s questions and concerns can be answered by a health care professional. Lastly, for those who wish to restore water back to its original state, filtration systems are very expensive and not economically practical for many Portlanders.

The minority recommends a “NO” vote on Measure 26-151.

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