Sierra Club Opposes Portland Water Fluoridation Measure 26-151

March 27, 2013


PORTLAND, Ore. — The Sierra Club today announced its opposition to Ballot Measure 26-151, the water fluoridation measure that voters will decide on this May.  The Club made its decision based on long-term evidence of adverse health risks from fluoridation chemicals and the concern that fluoridation would introduce dangerous quantities of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into local rivers through sewage effluent.

“Human health is intertwined with the health of our rivers, aquatic life, and entire ecosystem,” said Antonia Giedwoyn, spokesperson for Oregon Sierra Club’s Columbia Group, which made the decision to oppose the measure. “We strongly support comprehensive dental care for our children, but this is the wrong path to that goal.”

“Sierra Club opposes fluoridation, because it would degrade some of the purest drinking water in the world. Kids are already bombarded with multiple toxins from plastics, pesticides, and air pollution.  Adding fluorosilicic acid, a byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry, to Portland’s water would be a profound disservice to our children,” Giedwoyn said.

Fluorosilicic acid added to all Portland water would drain into rivers and streams. Fisheries scientist and Columbia Group Chair Jeff Fryer explained the club’s concerns about adding over 1 million pounds of fluoridation chemicals a year into Portland’s water system.

“We are disappointed that City Council rushed the fluoridation vote before evaluating impacts to salmon and other aquatic life, because there is no question that fluoridation chemicals would add a large quantity of a known toxin into rivers that are already overloaded with toxins,” Fryer said.

Claims that fluoridating the water would add a “natural mineral” are false. Fluorosilicic acid — which is neither natural, nor a mineral — is the chemical mixture the City would use to fluoridate. This man-made chemical is highly corrosive and is classified as “hazardous” by the National Institutes of Health’s Hazardous Substances Data Bank. Unlike fluoride in toothpaste, fluorosilicic acid is not pharmaceutical grade.

Numerous scientific studies have linked fluorosilicic acid exposure in drinking water to serious health risks such as increased risk of bone cancer, neurological impairment, thyroid dysfunction, and more.

If the measure passes, the City will charge water ratepayers for a fluoridation facility estimated to cost between $3.5 and $7.6 million, along with $575,000 per year indefinitely on fluoridation chemicals and plant operations.

“Spending millions of dollars to pollute our water with fluorosilicic acid, an industrial waste, would be dangerous and misguided. We can better serve Portland kids by increasing their access to dental care and prevention,” said Sierra Club member Sheila Golden, chair of Columbia Group’s Bull Run Task Force.

“For the sake of our children and our rivers, Sierra Club urges you to vote NO on acid fluoridation chemicals this May,” said Giedwoyn. “Sierra Club has been committed to healthy children for more than a century, and we want fewer chemicals in our water, not more.”

Sierra Club, founded by John Muir in 1892, is the nation’s oldest and largest environmental organization.


Relevant references:

“The most commonly used additives are silicofluorides, not the fluoride salts used in dental products (such as sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride). Silicofluorides are one of the by-products from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers.” National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences: “Fluoride in Drinking Water, A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards” (2006).

PWB spending:  City of Portland Water Bureau, “Cost to Implement Fluoridation,” June 8, 2012,  on file; referenced in

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