The City Council of Portland, Ore., on Wednesday approved putting fluoride in the municipal water, ending the city’s official resistance to using the additive to fight tooth decay.
The ordinance, which passed 5-0, calls for city water to be fluoridated by 2014, a spokeswoman for the city said by telephone. Portland is the largest city in the United States that does not add fluoride to its water.
Despite the council’s action, opponents of the ordinance have insisted that they will continue to fight fluoridation, and some said they plan to force a referendum. Oregon voters have rejected fluoridation three times.
Fluoridation has been a touchy issue for decades, with opponents contending that the chemical is linked to lower intelligence in children and a rare form of cancer. At one time, opponents suggested that putting fluoride in water was a Communist plot to control the U.S. population.
But despite those fears, the United States has continued to expand the use of fluoride, with officials maintaining that it’s a largely risk-free way to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three-fourths of all Americans, about 204 million people, are on fluoride-treated community water systems. The number has grown by 42 million since 2000.
“CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” the agency says.
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