SUTHERLIN: Sutherlin city councilors are turning to the voters to decide whether city water should be fluoridated to promote dental health.
In a special meeting on Monday night, councilors Wayne Luzier, Rick Tabor, Dean Bright, Scott McKnight and Mayor Joe Mongiovi voted in favor of a resolution that will place the issue of fluoridation on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
Councilor Dan Altman, who also voted in favor of the resolution, gave voice to the controversy that has clouded the issue for both elected officials and the public.
“I have read the information … and it is my belief that it is unsafe for us to make such an addition to the water system,” Altman said. “But I will support what voters decide … and the overall consensus of the council.”
Lynne Campbell, a Lake Oswego-based coordinator for Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, together with local residents Bill and Betty Brundige, sought council approval for an amendment to the resolution that would require a U.S. Food and Drug Administration finding that fluoride is safe and effective – something that agency has not done. They also called for language in the measure that might prevent the city from using industrial-grade chemicals to fluoridate Sutherlin water.
“Most people … think immediately of the pharmaceutical-grade fluoride found in their favorite toothpaste,” Campbell said. “Few realize that cities generally fluoridate their water with chemicals that are byproducts of the fertilizer and aluminum industries. These chemicals can also contain lead, arsenic and mercury. People should be concerned about these hazardous materials.”
But fluoridation proponent Shanna Murphy, representing the association Healthy Smiles for Douglas County, dismissed Campbell’s contention that fluoridation is a risk for Sutherlin residents.
“The National Institute for Safety and Health also lists caffeine, calcium carbonate and vinegar as hazardous materials along with fluoride,” Murphy said. “The Oregon Health Department requires certification of chemicals used in water. Fluoride is well-studied and proven to lower tooth decay without side effects.”
Mayor Mongiovi and council members encouraged both sides to express their concerns to the public in open town hall meetings and in statements of support or opposition to the November ballot measure.
“If each side has a chance to voice their opinion between now and the election, why don’t they do it?” Luzier suggested, rejecting calls for more restrictive text in the resolution. “This is the citizens’ decision.”