Five aldermen want to once again sink their teeth into the fluoride debate by calling on their colleagues to halt the city’s practice of fluoridating water.
In the latest attempt to stop the rule that’s been in place since 1991, the group of five says the cost of fluoridation, the prospect of multimillion-dollar upgrades and the health liabilities for certain people mean the city should stop adding the compound.
Ald. Druh Farrell, Ald. Andre Chabot, Ald. Jim Stevenson, Ald. John Mar and Ald. Brian Pincott will ask city council in about 10 days to end the fluoridation of the city’s water and put $750,000 toward fluoride treatments for low-income families.
Farrell said adding fluoride doesn’t give people an option when they drink city water.
“It’s putting something in that they might not want to consume,” she said. “It’s unreasonable and expensive to do it.”
It costs $600,000 a year to fluoridate Calgary’s water, Farrell noted.
But the bigger expense could be yet to come, she added, with needed upgrades to the fluoride systems at the Bearspaw and Glenmore water treatment plants costing anywhere from $2 million to $5 million.
“The capital cost is looming,” she said.
Ald. Joe Ceci has approved of fluoridating in the past because he worried low-income families couldn’t afford the measure on their own. But since the group of five’s motion asks for the $750,000 measure over three years, Ceci said he’ll chew on the latest proposal.
“My primary interest is to ensure there’s good oral health for those who can’t ensure that on their own,”he said.
The fluoride issue has been debated for decades. Plebiscites on adding it to help prevent tooth decay took place as early as 1957, but it was after the 1989 election –when 53 per cent voted in favour of using the chemical –that it was added.
Calgarians continued to show their support for fluoridation in the 1998 election when 55 per cent endorsed the move.
A vast array of health authorities back fluoridation, albeit with several caveats. Alberta Health Services’Calgary Health Region, the Alberta Dental Association and the American Dental Association have all gone on record saying they support it.
But they have also warned about the effects of fluoride on infants or people with kidney disease, saying the potential for harm exists.
Farrell said that’s reason enough to stop fluoridation, saying there are enough ways to get fluoride outside of city water nowadays for people who do want it.
Dr. James Beck, a biophysicist and medical ethicist who was with the University of Calgary, said Tuesday a growing body of evidence suggests fluoridation is not only ineffective, but can be harmful for several segments of the population.
“There’s no evidence to support fluoridation of the public water supply,” he said.
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