Maybe there’s something in the water, but this city council sure knows how to make a decision. No waffling, no calls for endless studies, just bold, potentially controversial and right-minded decisions. It’s as though someone turned on the tap and common sense and courage started to flow at City Hall.
On Tuesday, Calgary’s city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of no longer adding the industrial waste product of fluoride to our water supply.
After just two and a half hours of debate, a vote was held and 10 aldermen voted to do the right thing and stop mass-medicating 1.1 million citizens. Only three aldermen voted to keep fluoride after first trying to put the question to a plebiscite and then trying to have it studied again by scientists at the University of Calgary. They are Richard Pootmans, Gael MacLeod and Gord Lowe, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who is in Toronto. Ward 11 Alderman Brian Pincott was also absent and expected to vote to keep fluoride in the water had he been present.
This one decision saves Calgary taxpayers from having to spend anywhere from $3 million to $6 million to upgrade the fluoride-adding equipment at our Glenmore and Bearspaw water treatment facilities — something that was needed to replace the aging system in place since fluoride started being added to our water on Aug. 7, 1991.
It will also save Calgarians about $750,000 annually in operational costs, though that money has been set aside to help “address dental health issues for children living in poverty” in Calgary.
But most importantly, it will save thousands of Calgary children and elderly people from suffering damage to their teeth and bones from receiving too much fluoride, a condition known as fluorosis. Sadly, it’s too late for my kids, and many others, whose teeth show signs of mild to severe fluorosis as a result of being forced to swallow this medication when most experts agree fluoride is most beneficial to dental health when applied to the surface of our teeth.
Earlier in the afternoon, council considered and rejected putting the fluoride issue to a plebiscite during the 2013 municipal election by a vote of 8-5. Council also rejected the idea of referring the matter to an expert panel as offered by the University of Calgary.
Ward 7 Ald. Druh Farrell, who reopened the fluoride debate in January and deserves our gratitude, made reasoned points focusing largely on whether it is ethical to add a chemical to something as vital as water.
The simple answer is no. “It takes 66 per cent of landowners — not just voters but everyone affected — to pave a laneway and yet we had 130,000 voters make a decision for 1.1 million people on fluoride,” Farrell pointed out.
“What this really boils down to for me is the question of ethics. Should we have a right to impose what many people see as a medication through the water supply that those same people also pay for?”
Lawrence Oshanek, 63, who has been fighting against adding fluoride in water for three decades said: “We had six plebiscites and lost two, so this is great news. If people want this crap in their diet then by all means, please, swallow your toothpaste.”
Dr. Richard Musto, Alberta’s medical officer of health, said he’s disappointed with the decision, saying, “the evidence has not changed over the last 20 years.”
He was asked why, if the evidence hasn’t changed, did medical experts recommend that fluoride in Calgary’s water and across North America be reduced from one part per million to 0.7 ppm in 1998, and why in November 2006 the American Dental Association recommended parents not prepare baby formula with fluoridated water? He had no valid answers.
When asked if Calgary kids were going to suffer more cavities as a result of this vote, Musto said he couldn’t answer that. But as one reporter asked, if you can’t say there’s going to be a negative causal effect by removing fluoride, then why are you here advocating for it? It’s a great question.
Fay Ash, who has fought against fluoride being added to our water for many years, marvelled at this current council.
“They’ve voted in favour of changing the title alderman to the more gender-neutral councillor, something we battled for years to get. They voted for the airport tunnel and now they’ve done the right thing by getting rid of fluoride in our water,” she says with a smile. “What’s going on?”
Who knows. Whatever it is, we need more of it. Maybe there’s something in the water.
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