(NaturalNews) The Portland, Ore., City Council may be adamant about becoming one of the last major cities in the U.S. to add fluoride to the local water system, but citizens opposed to the move are equally adamant about stopping them.
A group that calls itself "Clean Water Portland" announced immediately after the council voted 5-0 to add the chemical to the region's drinking water it would challenge the decision through a citizen-initiated referendum, OregonLive.com, a local media source, reported.
The referendum differs from an initiative, which opponents previously called for, in that it has the potential to suspend the city's pending ordinance that takes effect in about 30 days, even though city officials have said they weren't planning to add fluoride to drinking water until 2014.
"If the petition qualifies for the ballot, the effective date of the ordinance is suspended until a public vote," Andrew Bryans of the city auditor's office said.
Clean Water Portland needs to collect nearly 20,000 valid signatures to put the measure to a vote.
Voters have routinely rejected fluoridation
Kim Kaminsky, the group's spokeswoman, said she will be filing the necessary paperwork soon with Portland's auditor. There are other requirements as well, but those were all expected to be fulfilled quickly.
The group says it has 125 volunteers to gather signatures and that it expects to have more than 25 paid signature-gatherers soon.
Opponents of the city's decision first announced in August they would push an initiative asking voters to ban fluoride in the drinking water in 2014. A referendum would also put the question to voters then as well, but opponents wouldn't have to collect as many signatures, local reports noted.
The website said there was another reason why opponents have switched from an initiative to a referendum. Commissioner Randy Leonard, the chief proponent of fluoride on the council, announced after opponents said they were planning an initiative that he'd take action to put fluoride in the water before they could get their ban on the ballot - a position that further inflamed passions among opponents.
Voters in Portland have rejected fluoridation of their water at the ballot box on three separate occasions, the most recent one about 32 years ago, in 1980.
The city's decision will affect some 900,000 residents in Portland and the surrounding communities of Gresham, Tigard and Tualatin. The vote comes after a hearing Sept. 6 which lasted nearly seven hours, as people on both sides of the argument offered statistics to prove their point, as well as impassioned arguments.
Some who attended the meeting echoed the typical argument offered by the federal government and the dental establishment: That fluoridation protects against tooth decay. Others; however, argued that adding the chemical to the city's drinking water amounted to forced medication.
Local reports said the recent council meeting erupted in disorder, prompting Mayor Sam Adams to eject a number of audience members while reminding others repeatedly to remain quiet so the council could conduct its business.
It's an 'equity' issue? (EDITOR'S NOTE: A LOT OF THE FOLLOWING IS VERBATIM IN ARTICLE WE JUST PUBLISHED TITLED "Portland, Oregon votes to poison its citizens with toxic fluoride chemicals.")
OregonLive.com reported that some protestors held signs objecting to fluoride. Others booed the elected officials and gave them a "thumbs-down" sign.
One protestor unfurled a white sheet from a balcony revealing a hand-made message that said, "Public water deserves and public vote."
Nevertheless, council members to a person were resolute.
"This is the right thing to do, and I'm pleased to vote 'aye,'" said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, drawing catcalls from the crowd.
Fellow Commissioner Amanda Fritz, local reports noted, seemed to be the only member with reservations. She voted in favor only after giving a lengthy speech in which she expressed simpatico with opponents.
Fritz is the only member who faces reelection in November. According to OregonLive.com, her opponent, state Rep. Mary Nolan, "had called on the council to back fluoride as an 'equity' issue."