Two doctors who worked to add fluoride to Philomath’s water three decades ago on Tuesday saw voters approve putting it back.
Drs. David Cutsforth and David Grube, Philomath physicians, helped lead a petition drive to get measure 02-76 on the March 13 special election ballot. The campaign was launched by a group of community members called Citizens for Healthy Teeth.
The vote reverses a May 2011 decision by the Philomath City Council to discontinue the fluoridating the city’s municipal water supply. Council members cited health concerns, liability issues and personal freedom as the main reasons for discontinuing water fluoridation.
Measure 02-76 directs the city of Philomath to resume adding approved fluoride compounds to the potable water supply system. It was the only measure on the ballot. As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, 59.5 percent of Philomath voters supported the measure. The voter turnout was about 46 percent.
“We had always presumed that the majority of Philomath citizens supported and wanted fluoride added to their water,” Cutsforth said. “Tonight they said that they did.”
Before the council’s decision, Philomath’s municipal water supply was fluoridated since the early 1980s. Cutsforth and Grube were part of a group that secured funds to fluoridate the city’s water back then.
Fluoride is a mineral that is sometimes added to municipal water supplies to prevent tooth decay. However, critics of fluoridation claim that it poses health risks that range from dental fluorosis (pitting and discoloration of tooth enamel) to bone cancer.
It costs the city about $4,000 a year to fluoridate its municipal water supply. The city also will cover the cost of Tuesday’s election, which could total up to $8,000.
Had the measure failed, Philomath City Council members had expressed interest in allocating the $4,000 to promote dental hygiene or to creation of a dental outreach program.
Cutsforth and Grube said Citizens for Healthy Teeth members hadn’t talked about the next step had the measure failed.
Grube thanked community members for taking time to learn about both sides of the issue and vote on what he called a community issue.
“We had no plan to be quite honest,” Grube said. “I think we had known all along that the citizens would recognize this was the right thing to do for this community.”