Peel Regional councillors have agreed to take a deeper look at merits and possible health risks associated with fluoridation of municipal drinking water and conduct broader public consultation on the longstanding practice.
During a regular meeting Thursday, councillors passed a motion to have a committee carry out a broad review of the issue and seek wide public opinion on whether the region should continue water fluoridation.
Councillors heard from experts on both sides of the debate during a special Jan. 21 closed-door meeting organized as an education session for the politicians.
In April 2011, the debate on local water fluoridation was closed when council unanimously voted to continue the practice Peel has been conducting for more than 40 years.
Council heard from a number of health officials, including Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, before concluding water fluoridation is a valuable public health tool in fighting poor oral health and other ailments that can stem from oral illnesses.
A vocal and persistent segment of the community argues exposure to the chemical on such a grand and widespread scale is actually harmful to public health.
Last year, council agreed to form a subcommittee to help educate newly elected councillors on the issue.
After last week’s education session, there came rumblings about growing political support for doing away with water fluoridation in Peel.
“I don’t think that’s doing our due diligence,” remarked Mississauga councillor Jim Tovey, who suggested Thursday that a decision of this magnitude cannot be made after an 80-minute education session and without broad public consultation.
Many other councillors who supported tasking a committee to conduct further review and consultation echoed his position.
Despite the issue being closed years ago, there appears to be some difference of opinion on the current council.
Last Monday, a joint letter signed by the mayors of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon expressed support for the continued use of fluoride in municipal drinking water as a protective health measure.
Mississauga councillor Carolyn Parrish said she disapproved of Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie issuing that public position without consulting the rest of council.
“It really puts us all in an awkward position, particularly those who don’t agree,” Parrish said.
Brampton councillor John Sprovieri, who has been a vocal opponent of fluoridation, questions why municipalities are responsible for water fluoridation instead of the provincial government.
According to Region staff, the municipality spends about $450,000 annually to add fluoride to the drinking water. Last year, Peel bought about 460,000 kilograms of fluoride, staff told council.