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Environmental groups say no to fluoride in Portland water

The Portland chapter of the Sierra Club came out Wednesday against the water fluoridation measure on Portland’s May ballot, along with Columbia Riverkeeper and Food and Water Watch.

The Sierra Club’s opposition to Ballot Measure 26-151 should be an important boost for critics, who figure to get outspent in the campaign.

The Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and oldest environmental group, delegated the decision to its local chapter, which spent several weeks studying the measure before issuing its decision.

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

Most environmental groups are staying out of the fight over fluoridation.

The Sierra Club was one of the few environmental groups opposing the Portland City Council’s vote last September to fluoridate Bull Run water, based on the national organization’s position that such matters should be put on the ballot.

The club argues that fluorosilicic acid, a common chemical used by major metropolitan areas for fluoridating, can increase the risk of bone cancer, neurological impairment, thyroid dysfunction and other ailments.

“We can better serve Portland kids by increasing their access to dental care and prevention,” said Sheila Golden, chairwoman of the Columbia Group’s Bull Run Task Force.

Columbia Riverkeeper, which timed its announcement to coincide with the other groups, pointed out that 215,000 pounds of fluoride concentrations will be poured into drinking water each year. "Simply pointing out that our rivers will dilute the fluoride pollution is not a solution," said Brett VandenHeuvel, the group's executive director, in a prepared statement.

Historically, he noted, fluoride discharged into the Columbia River by aluminum plants impacted salmon migration.

Food & Water Watch also issued a letter of opposition in tandem with the other two organizations.