SALEM"" A controversial bill aimed at preventing tooth decay appears to be losing momentum amid criticism that the proposal to force cities to fluoridate their water supplies would be tantamount to a power grab by the state Legislature.




Supported by the American Dental Association, House Bill 3099 would require cities of more than 10,000 people to fluoridate their municipal water supplies once funds become available, whether from the state or private sector.




If passed, the bill would have preempted an Ashland city ordinance forbidding fluoride or any other substance that would act as medication or a health supplement from being added to the city's water supply.




City Councilor Kate Jackson, the only councilor to vote against the ordinance, said fluoridation is an "important social equity issue" that gives poor children, who often go without dental care, healthier teeth.




But the most recent proposal in the perennial debate over state-mandated fluoridation appears to be sputtering this week after state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, opted to send his proposal to the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday rather than put it up for a vote in the House.




State Rep. Peter Buckley, an ardent opponent of the bill, said in an interview that the proposal will likely not make it back to the House floor.




"The proponents are absolutely convinced that this is a public health issue," said Buckley, D-Ashland. "They are coming at this with the best intentions, and they will probably come back with it next session."




On Wednesday, state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, in a regular weekly conference call with local community and business leaders, said that the proposal would have a "slow, quiet death" in the Joint Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member.




While proponents of fluoridation say it's an inexpensive and harmless way to help prevent dental cavities, critics charge that those claims are made on faulty science, and that fluoride &

a industrial byproduct of phosphate fertilizer manufacturing &

can lead to significant health problems, including bone deterioration and cancer.




On its Web site, the American Dental Association says for five decades it has "continuously endorsed the fluoridation of community water supplies and the use of fluoride-containing products as safe and effective measures for preventing tooth decay."




Similar proposals during the last three legislative sessions have stalled.




Michael Framson, Southern Oregon liaison for Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, said lawmakers are tired of debating the issue. There seems to be "fluoridation fatigue," he said.




"Clearly, the new science makes it more difficult for the promoters to say convincingly that there are no concerns with fluoridation," he said, adding that Sen. Bates' lobbying efforts, as a physician, played a "pivotal role" in the bill's apparent defeat.




covers the state Legislature for The Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.