"Don’t drink the water.”

That famous phrase has come around again, thanks to Portland, which is about to vote on whether residents want to add fluoride to their tap water.

It’s a debate that major cities and small towns have waged for decades.

In an era when purity in the environment is everything, I’m finding it hard to sit back and allow a decision like this to be made without my consent.

Fluoride is an unknown. Regardless of the countless endorsements of the American Dental Association, the National Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are equal amounts of warnings from the American Medical Association suggesting that state health departments consider the value of requiring statewide fluoridation, and the World Health Organization themselves admit that fluoride could possibly help dental care in third world countries, but it’s adverse health effects need to be weighed against the benefits.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance, but what is to be added is more chemical than natural. We’re told it’s for the benefit of the community to have everyone ingest fluoride, thus providing them with healthy teeth. I do consider myself community driven, but my benevolence ends when I’m told I have to suddenly become responsible for someone else’s dental hygiene by ingesting something I don’t need, don’t want or could be detrimental to all of us.

Do I really care that Seattle has better teeth than Portland, or that Portland is the last major city that’s unfluoridated?

This may seem terse, but I actually don’t care, or think about the dental care of neighborhood children. They have parents and guardians who do that. Why is something so available as fluoridated toothpaste, fluoride tablets and drops, not to mention that it’s free for children in the public school system with parental consent, force me to spend my money on unfluoridated, bottled water should this go through?

But perhaps the most chilling of all is that we in Gresham won’t have a voice in the decision. Gresham is a customer of the Portland Water Bureau. Gresham purchases water that flows from the Bull Run Reservoir.

If Portlanders vote to add fluoride to their water supply, that chemical will be injected upstream of Gresham.

If the measure passes in Portland, we’ll have to pay the consequences in Gresham. We don’t have a say in the matter.

How is it that our water will be medicated for us, without regard to what we want? And it is indeed a medication, since it’s sole purpose is to prevent tooth decay.

Did we suddenly lose our freedom of choice?

The fluoride proponents can tout it’s safety and health benefits all they want, but numbers aren’t in yet. Research is a slow mover.

How many prescription drugs have we seen in recent years that are no longer beneficial because of their adverse health risks?

Time will tell on what fluoride will bring. Research is still hoping to find the reason for autism as well as the basis for ADHD in children.

We have to find a way to make people responsible for themselves without throwing us all into the same pit. Most of all, we demand to be heard on something this important.

Suzan Wilson is a Gresham resident.

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