BEAVERTON — City residents will have a say this fall about fluoridating Beaverton’s water.

With one City Council member absent, the other four unanimously decided to put the issue to an advisory vote, as requested by Mayor Rob Drake following a sometimes-emotional hearing Monday night.

Given three minutes each, 16 people argued against fluoridation; 13 spoke for it.

When routinely asked by Councilor Forrest Soth whether the question should be put to a public vote, some opponents said it should, rather than letting the council decide the issue on its own.

“Don’t listen to a group of dentists or doctors who have been persuaded that fluoridation is a good idea,” said Cyndy de Bruler of Hood River. She contended that fluoride-treated water that reaches creeks and rivers might harm aquatic life.

Her husband, Greg de Bruler, contended that scientists have not determined whether fluoride combines with other substances to cause cancer.

Others, including Lynne Campbell, executive director of Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water from Lake Oswego, said the addition of fluoride would contribute to fluorosis, a tooth and bone problem created by too much exposure to the chemical.

Campbell also complained that fluoride opponents had been “shut out of this process” since Drake proposed the idea and invited only proponents to speak at a July 15 council work session.

Several fluoride proponents, starting with Joyce Crunican, a dental hygienist from Beaverton, provided accounts of preschool children painfully afflicted with mouthfuls of cavities. Crunican said some cavities, although not all, could have been prevented by the children’s drinking fluoridated water.

Eric Downey, a Beaverton pediatric dentist for the past year who trained in largely fluoridated Iowa, said he was amazed at the large numbers of cavities in children he sees. Downey estimated that 10 percent of his preschool charges require hospital stays under anesthesia while he fills several cavities at a time.

April Love, a retired dentist representing Stand for Children, a pro-fluoride group, said she had consulted with personnel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who “never heard of health problems for fish” caused by fluoridation.

Love, who lives in Scholls, and Gordon Empey, a Northwest Portland dentist specializing in public health, discounted opponents’ health concerns about fluoridating water.

Recalling that C. Everett Koop and David Satcher, former U.S. surgeons general, had urged water fluoridation, Empey said that 50 years of medical research and experience with fluoride had shown “it’s safe, effective, economical and even socially equitable.”

In the advisory vote Nov. 5, residents’ approval of fluoridation would not legally bind the city to adopt it, Chief of Staff Linda Adlard said Tuesday. It would trigger a study of how to inject fluoride into the city’s water system most efficiently and economically.

Once that information became available, Adlard said, the ultimate decision on whether to fluoridate would be put to the council.

Monday’s action instructed Adlard and City Attorney Mark Pilliod to draft a ballot title for council consideration during its Aug. 19 session at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive.

Beaverton supplies water to about 50,000 of its 78,000 residents. The rest are served by surrounding water agencies. One, the Tualatin Valley Water District, fluoridates water to about 123,000 people, including about 15 percent of Beaverton’s population on the city’s north and west sides.

Smaller portions of the city are within the West Slope and Raleigh water districts, and the former Metzger Water District that is part of the Tualatin Valley agency. None of those areas has fluoridated water.

Adlard said, however, that all voters within the city limits would be eligible to cast ballots on the issue because citywide votes can’t be subdivided by district lines.