Voters in the small city of Philomath in Benton County will decide next month whether to restore fluoride to the city’s municipal water supply.
Philomath’s water had been fluoridated since the early 1980s, but the City Council voted unanimously last May to stop adding fluoride to the municipal water supply.
If approved, Measure 02-76 on the March 13 special election ballot would reverse the council’s decision.
Those who support adding fluoride say it’s a cheap, effective way to prevent tooth decay, especially in children. Opponents say it violates an individual’s right to consent to medication and that the chemicals used to fluoridate water supplies are hazardous.
Only 39 public water systems in the state deliver fluoridated water, including Tualatin Valley Water District, Salem and Beaverton, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported.
Portland is one of the largest cities in the U.S. that does not add fluoride to its municipal water supply, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Others that don’t include Eugene, Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, Pendleton, Klamath Falls, Newport and Lincoln City.
In Philomath, the pro-fluoride supporters have raised far more money than those who oppose it, the Gazette-Times reported Sunday.
Citizens for Healthy Teeth, the political action committee behind the ballot measure, had brought in $3,739.90 in cash and in-kind donations, according to records on file with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.
In addition, the pro-fluoride PAC’s main financial backer said he plans to kick in several thousand dollars more between now and March 13, when balloting ends.
By contrast, Fluoride Free Philomath, which formed against Measure 02-76, had collected just $915.
The biggest individual contributor has been Philomath City Councilor Matthew Bierek, who gave $250. Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, a group organized to fight mandatory fluoridation measures in the Legislature, donated $250.
“Political campaigns cost money, and the other side has a lot more money than we do,” said executive Director Kim Kaminski, who added that the Portland-based nonprofit wanted to support the Philomath City Council’s decision to stop fluoridating.
Citizens for Healthy Teeth, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet, with its only visible campaign materials so far being some lawn signs and pro-fluoride brochures in local medical and dental offices.
With ballots going out this weekend, the campaign is getting ready to make a public splash with an insert and a full-page ad in the Gazette-Times, the committee’s largest donor, James Summerton, told the newspaper.
Summerton, a fervent believer in fluoridation, has already contributed $2,500 to Citizens for Healthy Teeth.
“From my standpoint, just to keep Philomath a pleasant place to live, that’s a relatively small investment,” Summerton told the Gazette-Times.