PORTLAND, Ore. – Portlanders will have a chance to vote on putting fluoride in the city’s water supply in 2013, a year earlier than originally planned.
The Portland City Council on Thursday evening voted to move up the public vote about fluoridating the water supply.
In September, the council unanimously approved fluoridating the water, despite objections about a lack of public debate. In response, opponents gathered more than 30,000 signatures and managed to refer the issue to voters.
The vote was originally scheduled for May of 2014, which was the next scheduled regular election. Thursday’s 3-1 vote will create a special election in May of 2013 to consider the issue.
Outgoing Mayor Sam Adams, as well as Commissioners Randy Leonard and Nick Fish voted to move up the public vote. Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted against it and Commissioner Dan Saltzman was not present.
The council vote came after nearly four hours of public testimony from dozens of people.
Opponents of moving up the vote called for an independent, scientific review of the effects of fluoride and also called it corrupt to change the way the system normally works.
But those in favor of an earlier vote said there have already been more than a dozen scientific reviews with clear evidence and the issue should be quickly settled.
A recent poll showed voters almost evenly split on the issue.
Fish, who co-sponsored the plan, has said more than 200 million Americans drink water with added fluoride, and it doesn't appear to have caused great harm.
Most mainstream health organizations, such as the American Medical Association and American Dental Association, endorse it as safe.
In September, police had to remove unruly protesters for yelling, swearing, hissing and disrupting a vote by the Portland City Council, which unanimously approved adding fluoride to the city's drinking water.
City councilors argued it's Portland's responsibility to protect childrens' health. Medical experts say it's a safe and effective way to keep teeth healthy.
"Reasonable people can disagree, but the science is on the side of fluoridation," Mayor Sam Adams previously said.
But opponents dispute whether fluoride is safe and said adding the mineral to drinking water violates a person's right to consent to medication.
KATU News reporter Erica Nochlin contributed to this report