Portland Voters Soundly Reject Fluoride

Fluoride is 0-for-4 in Portland.

Early returns in tonight's special election show Measure 26-151—which would have required the fluoridation of Portland's water supply—losing 61 percent to 39 percent

The defeat marks the fourth time since 1956 that Portland voters have rejected fluoride, and keeps this the largest city in the United States with unfluoridated water. The anti-fluoridation forces wasted little time celebrating their win.

Tonight's vote also means the end to a populist drama sparked by Portland City Council last summer, when then-Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard stealthily pushed the addition of fluoride to the Bull Run water supply, backed by a quiet campaign by a lobbying group called Upstream Public Health.

The revolt was instantaneous.

Fluoridation opponents packed City Hall and gathered more than 33,000 signatures to place the question on the May 2014 ballot. City Commissioners moved the vote up to this May—claiming they wanted to resolve the question quickly but raising even more suspicion among opponents, who believed they were trying to sneak the controversial chemical past voters.

That public distrust only deepened this spring when the Oregon Health Authority delayed release of its 2013 Smile Survey, a study of dental health, by three months—and the study showed cavities in Portland were down, even without fluoride in the water.

The pro-fluoride campaign, Healthy Kids Healthy Portland, raised more than twice the money of the anti-fluoridation campaign, Clean Water Portland. But as total fundraising topped $1 million, both sides endured money scrutiny.

As WW first reported, Healthy Kids Healthy Portland handed out $143,000 to seven minority groups who endorsed the pro-fluoride campaign.

WW also reported that almost half of Clean Water Portland's money came from out-of-state donors—including Tea Party supporters in Kansas and Utah, and a controversial alternative physician outside Chicago.

Every major newspaper in the city—including WW—endorsed the measure. As polling suggested the pro-fluoride campaign failing, media outlets across the country marveled at liberal Portland bucking scientific consensus. But the coalition of skeptics—rooted in Portland's organic ethos—grew more impassioned throughout the spring.

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