For Calgarians wary of the side-effects of water fluoridation, it will be the day the taps can flow freely.
For dentists, it will be the day that more tooth rot begins to set in.
Some undetermined day in the next few weeks will mark the end of Calgary adding fluoride to its water supply. Council repealed its 20-year-old fluoridation bylaw Monday, and within two weeks Alberta Environment will give formal authority for the change, a report to aldermen says.
“Once the order is issued, we can turn the taps off,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters before the evening vote.
The bylaw repeal passed 10-4 on Monday, with Nenshi among those voting against it.
It’s been an issue that previous councils and voters have grappled with for decades, with repeated plebiscites and council decisions.
It could someday return to the ballot box with another plebiscite, as some doctors have suggested in the weeks since February, when council voted in a surprisingly definitive 10-3 vote to scrap fluoridation.
The move got attention Monday from the influential Canadian Medical Association Journal, which also noted the recent decision from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lower the recommended fluoride concentration to 0.7 parts per million, from 1.0. Calgary had long been adding the hydrofluroislic acid chemical to city water to achieve that lower amount.
A news article on the CMAJ website noted “the scientific pendulum appearing to slowly swing away from the value of fluoridating tap water,” but also suggested there would be fallout from such moves.
“The announcements have renewed a battle over the value of fluoridation, with advocates of adding fluorides arguing that there are economic consequences to discontinuing the practice,” says the article on the CMAJ website.
The practice had cost Calgary about $750,000 a year, and would have soon required a $6-million systems upgrade.
Council voted to put that annual amount toward offering fluoride treatments or other dental-health measures for lower-income children, but medical and dental experts have long warned that the most efficient way of accomplishing that is through fluoridated water.
The article also cited retired University of Calgary biophysician James Beck’s warning that cities can’t control how much fluoride residents get through the water system. At very high amounts, fluoride is widely believed to have health risks.
Beck, co-author of an anti-fluoride book, has been travelling the country as several jurisdictions have mulled following Calgary’s lead.
Lethbridge, Toronto and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have voted in recent months to keep fluoridation.