BEAVERTON — The discussion about whether to continue fluoridating much of Tualatin Valley Water District’s water, expand the practice or end it was planned to last an hour.
But the talking went on for three hours.
Twenty-one speakers divided almost evenly on the subject in a hearing before the five-commissioner board Wednesday night. The commissioners ultimately agreed to wait at least until early next year before considering the matter again.
Admitting he felt a little drained after the last speaker finished about 10:30 p.m., Commissioner Gordon Martin said he had more reading to do before deciding whether any fluoridation risks outweigh its benefits.
Martin said he remained concerned that younger district residents might be getting too much fluoride when the drinking water is combined with other dietary sources that are fluoridated.
Other board members also said they were uncertain what, if anything, the district should do about its fluoridation of district water that is piped to a majority of its 178,000 residents.
The issue came up last month as voters within Beaverton were asked whether the city should start fluoridating its water. The Nov. 5 vote went 53 percent in favor.
After talking to a fluoridation opponent, Martin had asked the other commissioners to hold a public forum on the issue. That drew about 60 people to the district’s hearing room Wednesday, many of them wearing lapel tags reading “Keep Fluoridation.”
Outside testimony Most of Wednesday evening’s speakers came from outside the district.
Paul Engelking, a University of Oregon chemistry professor who declared himself neutral on the issue, nevertheless suggested that fluoride concentrations he and his students detected in the Tualatin River last summer might be harmful to aquatic life.
The measurements registered about a quarter of a part fluoride to a million parts water at the Southwest Farmington Road Bridge and in West Linn, Engelking said.
Ronda Trotman Reese, a Portland dentist and the fluoride proponents’ lead speaker, argued that “legitimate science does not support dangers to fish or wildlife at the concentrations we are advocating.” She said the world’s oceans contain about 1.5 parts per million of fluoride, something salmon swim in for much of their lives before returning to fresh water to spawn.
Opponents’ concerns about fluoridated water’s possible toxicity to humans also are unfounded, she said. To ingest a toxic amount at the standard part-per-million fluoride concentration, Trotman Reese said, a 155-pound man would have to consume at least 10,000 glasses of water at one sitting.
Dietary fluoride Jeff Green, national director of anti-fluoride Citizens for Safe Drinking Water in San Diego, contended that many scientists had shifted their views on fluoridation in recent years and were questioning its safety for humans. He said fluoride from other dietary sources such as soda pop, combined with fluoridated water, might contribute to fluorosis, a fluoride excess that causes tooth staining and, in severe cases, skeletal problems.
Trotman Reese countered that, saying that while she has been a dentist for six years and a dental hygienist for the previous 13, she had never seen a case of severe dental fluorosis or debilitating skeletal fluorosis.
The Tualatin Valley district is Oregon’s second-largest water supplier, after Portland, serving about 178,000 residents on Beaverton’s fringes. Since a public vote in 1963, it has added fluoride to much of its supply at the industry-recommended one part per million.
A part of the district between Beaverton and Portland, which merged with the larger district in 1991, does not receive the additive because residents there have not voted on it.