Fluoride Action Network

Will Voters Settle The Fluoride Debate?

Lebanon Local | Nov 22, 2023 | By Sarah Brown
Posted on November 22nd, 2023
Location: United States, Oregon

The City Council discussed fluoridation of water, approved a Republic Services trash rate increase, approved an ordinance to reduce fees for construction of accessory dwelling units, and announced the Lebanon Downtown Association is back in good standing during the Nov. 8 meeting.

Fluoridated water

The council discussed the issue of fluoridated water and chose to begin the process of referring the decision to voters. What that entails, City Attorney Tré Kennedy said, is a memo to be brought before Council with a recommendation, which Council then votes on. Then a draft is written up for the November 2024 election.

Public Works Director Jason Williams gave some bullet points to the council regarding the City’s use of fluoride:

  • The City Council in April 2000 enacted an ordinance requiring fluoridated water in its system.
  • They dose .7 parts per million, which equates to .18 gallons of fluoride per 150,000 gallons of water.
  • Due to fluoride, the dosing of caustic soda must be increased to bring the pH balance back up.
  • The City’s 2022-23 budget was $12,800 for fluoride and $14,715 for caustic dosing.
  • Staff must wear suits and respirators when handling the fluoride.
  • Images within the new water treatment plant compared to images within the fluoride containment room show evidence of corrosion on metallic door handles, plastic parts and pipes in the fluoride room.

During discussion, Councilor Dave Workman said his biggest concern was that the City Council had made the determination to provide fluoride, not allowing the residents a chance to vote on the matter.

“The issue is, to me, putting this on a ballot; not me making a moral judgment or reading somebody’s story about why fluoride is good or bad for you,” Workman said. “I think that’s a people-discussion.”

Councilors Carl Mann and Wayne Dykstra, as well as Mayor Ken Jackola, agreed it is a matter that the residents should vote on, while Councilor Jeremy Salvage indicated he’s not opposed to voters having their say, particularly since it’s a matter that involves health.

Councilor Michelle Steinhebel said there is a process in place for voter initiatives, referring to a petition process, which some residents have begun for the fluoride matter. While the council can choose to put an initiative on a ballot themselves, she said the council is voted on by the people to make the hard decisions and she believes this is one of those decisions that could be made by the council.

Steinhebel gave two examples where the council made decisions on proclamations and homeless sleeping areas, which brought more public attention than the fluoride issue.

“I really think this is a decision we can make as a body, and quite frankly I realize I’m going to be out-voted on that decision,” she said. “That’s what we’re here to do. Do we need to send it to the voters to have that fight and divide our community? Or can we just do it here tonight?”

She clarified her stand by saying she doesn’t intend to cut the voter out of the process, but she feels the voter has already been involved in the process by electing the council members.

Councilor KJ Ullfers said this is a topic that has been passed by City Council twice (referring to the 2000 decision to initiate the fluoridation of water, and the 2016 decision to install fluoride pumps when the new water treatment plant was built), and suggested the petition process failed (to which it was later explained the petitioners are too busy to solicit signatures, but there is still time to complete and turn in the petition). He said he believes the council has the right to make these kinds of decisions, and putting this on a ballot creates a slippery slope that blurs the line between what council and voters should decide on.

During public comment, Corbin Tolin said he toured the water treatment plant regarding fluorosilicic acid and received an informational sheet describing potential health hazards of the product. Given the hazards, “the whole argument of this being good for our teeth, I kind of reject,” he said.

Tolen also said he believes the corrosive material also degrades the city’s pumps at a faster rate. He suggested the City make fluoride-treated water an option for consumers to install in their own households.

“This would be a much more fair and justified way of actually allowing people to still get this if they think it’s truly good for their teeth,” Tolen said.

Or, he added, people could take fluoride in tablet form.

Edda King addressed the council to present her argument for fluoridated water “due to the benefits it does provide.” She pointed out there are families who do not or cannot provide dental help for their children, and those children will be affected by that for the rest of their lives.

Melissa Peterson shared she took interest in the fluoride question and did her own research on the matter. She said part of what she learned was that England – a country with similar diet and obesity rates – does not put fluoride in their water, and yet they have the same rate of tooth decay.

“That led me to believe if the main purpose of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay, then presumably the U.S. should have a lower rate of tooth decay,” she said.

There are many causes of tooth decay, and fluoride seems to be “an attempt at a blanket solution to the deeper issue of tooth decay,” but it is not a solution, Peterson said.

*Original full-text article online at: https://www.lebanonlocalnews.com/will-voters-settle-the-fluoride-debate/