Alberta Health Services is urging aldermen not to drop fluoride from the city’s drinking water.
Ald. Druh Farrell is set to present a motion on Monday calling for city council to scrap its fluoridation program and says a majority of aldermen are prepared to support her.
However, AHS says the city’s two-decades-old fluoride policy is still needed.
“We’re pretty clear and consistent with the other major organizations in Canada, and internationally, that fluoride is an important benefit to populations,” said Dr. Richard Musto, medical officer of health.
Tap water is an effective method to protect teeth from decay, which has benefits to overall health, he said, adding if teeth are sore, it makes eating a healthy diet more difficult.
Poor oral health can also put pregnant women at risk of pre-term labour, Musto said.
Turning to other methods, such as targeting at-risk children with school programs, would be less effective than merely continuing to put fluoride in drinking water, he said.
“It’s safe, it’s effective and we hope very much that good sense will prevail and council will agree to continue it,” Musto said.
Debating the merits of putting fluoride into Calgary’s drinking water is nothing new.
The first plebiscite on the issue was narrowly defeated in 1957, prompting the population to vote on fluorination again in 1961, 1966 and 1971.
Calgarians finally voted to add fluoride to the water in 1989, starting the program two years later.
If council decides to back away from fluoride treatment, all that’s required is the city change its water bylaws and then work with Alberta Environment to amend the approvals under which it has permission to run water treatment facilities, said ministry spokeswoman, Carrie Sancartier.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city should request more input from medical experts, scientists and the public on the future of fluorination in water before making any final decisions.
“If we were able to make a decision at one meeting of council with no public input, I think that would be the wrong way to go,” Nenshi said.
Critics say too much fluoride can cause damage to children’s teeth and brain development, and argue that it’s unethical to distribute a drug to the masses with no method of monitoring it.
“If it was a good idea to put medicine in the drinking water, why is it in 65 years after start of fluoridation in North America, we haven’t used it for distribution of any other medication in the water supply,” said Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network and professor emeritus of environmental chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
“It’s a bad practice from the word go,” he said.
“It just should be stopped worldwide.”
With files from Richard Cuthbertson, Calgary Herald
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