Statewide Legislation to Overturn Portland’s Vote Against Water Fluoridation?

Groups Call on Gov. Kate Brown for Response After State Dental Director Suggests Goal That Would Require Overturning Votes Against Fluoridation in Portland and Other Oregon Cities

Salem, OR – Clean Water Oregon called on Governor Kate Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek and& Senate President Peter Courtney to respond to plans announced last week by Oregon Health Authority’s State Dental Director Bruce Austin to increase statewide water fluoridation from 23% to 80% by 2019.

That goal could only be practically achieved through a Legislative bill to overturn the 2013 vote by 61% of Portlanders against water fluoridation, as well as a number of other municipal votes and ordinances against fluoridation ranging from Eugene and Bend to Ashland and Medford. Just two weeks ago, voters in Newport, OR, became the latest Oregon city to reject adding fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water, with 64% of voters opposing the measure.

In testimony before Oregon’s Senate and House Health Committees, Austin stated:

"The goal is to increase our 23% (of Oregonians with fluoridation chemicals added to their water) to a goal of 80% by 2019, and if you know anything about the history of water fluoridation in Oregon, you'll see that this is quite a challenging goal, and I think Senator Steiner-Hayward and I have some similar passions and frustrations. We're right in the midst of forming a work group to look into our long-term plan for this, and we may need your help along the way."

Clean Water Portland, which led the successful 2013 fight to stop the addition of fluoridation chemicals to Portland’s drinking water, also called on Gov. Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney to state that they do not support legislation that would overturn democratic votes against water fluoridation.

“It is very clear that what Dr. Austin is talking about is overturning local votes in Portland and other major Oregon cities against adding fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water,” says Kellie Barnes, President of Clean Water Oregon. “Governor Brown and legislative leaders need to let voters know today that they support local voters’ rights to decide whether or not to fluoridate and that they will not follow Dr. Austin’s suggestion of overturning Portland’s democratic vote.”

Rick North, who volunteered with the local citizen group that educated voters on the risks of water fluoridation in Newport, Oregon, agreed. "When Oregon communities have the chance to vote on fluoridating their drinking water, the recent trend has been that they have said ‘No’ loud and clear. But even if they fluoridate, it should be their right to decide. It would be wrong for state legislators to ignore the voters and take away that right.”

Clean Water Oregon launched a petition campaign targeting Gov. Brown, legislative leaders and Dr. Austin today, asking them to respect the repeated votes against water fluoridation by Portlanders and other Oregon cities and to make clear that they would not support legislation overturning democratic votes.

“The timing of this push is surprising ” adds Barnes. “The growing body of scientific evidence continues to show that the risks of water fluoridation are much greater than we previously thought, and that alternatives such as increasing access to care and prevention are much more effective and equitable solutions for addressing childhood cavity rates than water fluoridation.”