For nearly two hours Monday night, 25 people waded into the issue of whether the Philomath City Council should stick by its decision to remove fluoride from the city’s drinking water — or reconsider the controversial decision.
The council then decided to postpone making a decision until its Aug. 8 meeting on whether to reconsider its May 9 decision to stop adding fluoride to the city’s water supply after nearly 30 years.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that protects against tooth decay, but it has long drawn accusations that it carries health risks and should not be added to drinking water.
“We received a lot of testimony, handouts and emails over the weekend,” said mayor Ken Schaudt. “We will not be making a decision tonight. Clearly we need more time to review this.”
The council voted to reject Schaudt’s recommendation that the issue be sent back to the council’s three-member public sub-committee for review. As early as January, that subcommittee proposed discontinuing the addition of fluoride in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ suggested reduction of the fluoride level in municipal drinking water from 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to .7 milligrams.
Monday’s meeting gave the public another opportunity to address the council about fluoridation. About 12 people had testified at the June 13 meeting. About 40 people attended Monday’s meeting, which drew people from as far as Portland. Many of the people who testified against the ban were dentists or other health professionals.
More people spoke in favor of the council’s decision than last month. Arguments against fluoridation included: freedom of choice and concerns that it’s causing health problems such as bone cancer — a claim that doctors deny.
Travis L. Orback of McMinnville has spoken out against fluoride in other cities, such as Keizer.
“There’s so many people bringing claims up out there,” Orback said, and some should be considered.
Slightly more people spoke Monday in favor of fluoridation and urged the council to reconsider its ban.
Raquel Bournhonesque, the co-director of Upstream Public Health, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that focuses on health issues, said there are sound reasons why groups such as the American Dental Association support fluoridation.
“It’s the single most effective way to improve our oral health,” Bournhonesque said. “It’s also inexpensive and as simple as drinking a glass of water.”
Pending a decision in August, the city plans to use up the rest of its stock of fluoride but has no immediate plans to buy more. How long it will last depends on the weather and demand.