Water fluoridation in Portland, Ore., up for vote in 2013

The citizens of Portland, OR, will vote one year sooner on whether fluoride should be added to the city's drinking water.

Portland officials decided to move up the date of a public referendum that had been set for May 2014 to May 2013, according to an Associated Press story. Fluoride advocates said it's important to have the issue settled quickly because Portland children, particularly those from low-income families, have high rates of caries.

The city council in September unanimously approved a plan to add fluoride by March 2014. Opponents subsequently gathered more than 30,000 signatures to force a referendum. Under city rules, May 2014 was the earliest election date unless the council decided it was in the public interest to schedule an earlier vote.

The antifluoridation group Clean Water Portland criticized the decision to speed up the election, saying the council's "calculated" move leaves the group with insufficient time to educate voters on the cons of adding the mineral to a water supply that serves about 900,000 people, according to the story.

Opponents of public fluoridation contend it is unsafe and violates an individual's right to consent to medication. They called for an independent scientific review of the latest research so voters can make an informed decision.

Portland's drinking water already contains naturally occurring fluoride, though not at levels considered to be effective at fighting caries. Portland voters twice rejected fluoridation before approving it in 1978, but that plan was overturned before any fluoride was added to the water.

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