BEAVERTON — Mayor Rob Drake acknowledges he suffered from tooth decay as a child and as an adult. It’s a problem he thinks water fluoridation could help others avoid.
At Drake’s behest, City Council members on Monday will begin considering whether to put the often-inflammatory question of fluoridating water before Beaverton voters on the Nov. 5 general-election ballot.
The mayor says he would recommend that the council approve posing the ballot question after holding a public hearing during its Aug. 5 session. The city has never put the issue before voters.
Already, opposition to any hint of fluoridation is mobilizing.
Claire Darling, a member of Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, an anti-fluoride group based in Lake Oswego, said she will lead a new group called Beaverton Citizens for Safe Drinking Water to campaign against any local ballot measure.
“It’s not the place of any public water supply to medicate for any reason,” Darling said.
Drake said he thinks general support for fluoridation is strong in Beaverton. About 15 percent of city residents already receive fluoridated water from the Tualatin Valley Water District.
The mayor cited results of a city-sponsored poll taken in April by a Portland firm, Davis Hibbitts & McCaig. Among other questions, the pollsters asked 300 residents whether the city fluoridated its water. They found 27 percent incorrectly replying yes and 37 percent saying they didn’t know.
Told that the city didn’t fluoridate and then asked whether they would vote for or against it, 63 percent favored fluoridation, 28 percent opposed it, and the rest didn’t know, Drake said.
During a work session in Monday’s council meeting, representatives of Stand for Children, an organization that advocates water fluoridation, will offer information about the treatment’s benefits, especially to low-income families with no access to dentists’ fluoride treatments and other care.
In the follow-up hearing Aug. 5, the council will listen to anyone who wants to speak about fluoridation.
Beaverton supplies water to about 56,000 of its 78,000 residents. Most of the rest reside in the Tualatin Valley district, which fluoridates water in its territory serving about 128,000 people inside and outside Beaverton, in eastern Hillsboro and in unincorporated Washington County.
The water district and the larger of its two predecessor agencies, the Wolf Creek Highway Water District, have added the standard 1-part-per-million fluoridation dosage to the Wolf Creek area’s water since a public vote favored the process in 1963.
An eastern slice of Beaverton, along with part of Tigard and an unincorporated zone that are in the former Metzger Water District, do not receive fluoridated water, although the Metzger district merged with Tualatin Valley more than a decade ago.
Gail Adamson, a Tualatin Valley spokeswoman, said the former Metzger district’s residents have never voted on the issue. The district’s policy is not to fluoridate anyone’s water unless they vote for it.
April Love, a retired Washington County dentist who belongs to Stand for Children, said the group wants to make local water providers aware of severe dental problems suffered by low-income families, especially children, who have no access to dental care.
Love said she volunteers to examine children who qualify for Head Start early childhood education programs in the Portland area. “I’m appalled at what I’ve seen out there,” she said.
Although fluoride treatments are known to cause stains and pitting in children’s teeth if used excessively, there are no scientifically reported health effects from water fluoridated at the proper 1-part-per-million concentration, Love said.