A bill backing statewide water fluoridation to prevent tooth decay is stuck in the Joint Ways and Means Committee without the votes to move it to either house before the Legislature adjourns.
That means Oregon will retain, at least until next year, its ranking as the third-least fluoridated state in the nation, behind Hawaii and New Jersey. Only one in five Oregonians uses water with fluoride in it.
House Bill 3099 would have required Oregon cities with at least 10,000 residents to add fluoride to their water supplies to prevent tooth decay unless the city “opted out” for lack of money or other reasons.
Virtually all major public health groups endorse fluoridation as a safe and cost-effective way of reducing cavities, particularly in low-income children who lack regular access to dental care. But some opponents criticized the bill on environmental grounds — calling fluoride a toxic pollutant — while others attacked as an example of “big government” trumping local control.
An amended version of the fluoridation bill was scheduled to come before a Ways and Means subcommittee last Saturday. But sponsors told advocates they lacked the votes to pass the bill and bring it to a floor vote.
“We’re disappointed,” said Brett Hamilton, spokesman for the Oregon Dental Association, one of the bill’s strongest backers. “We don’t expect any more action on it this session.”
At the request of the British Department of Health in 2000, the Evidence-based Practice Center at Oregon Health & Science University reviewed 214 published studies on the safety and effectiveness of fluoride in drinking water. OHSU researchers found clear evidence that fluoride prevents dental decay.