The fight over fluoride must be decided by the public alone and not local politicians, says Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.
Bradley said that even if the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS) board decides today to remove fluoride from local water, the decision must be left to a plebiscite during the 2010 municipal election.
Each of the six member municipalities in the system must let their residents make the call under provincial regulations, he said.
“Because it was decided by the electorate, I don’t think we have the moral right to decide,” he said.
Fluoride was introduced to the local water system in 1970 after more than a decade of acrimonious debate. A majority voted for it’s inclusion in the water system in a plebiscite. Under the Fluoridation Act of 1990, the removal of fluoride must go to a referendum vote and the province even specifies how to word the question, Bradley said.
“The fact that there is actually a prescribed way to do this, and a prescribed question you must ask, tells you that there’s been a lot of thought put into this,” he said. “This is the only fair way to do it.”
But, back then LAWSS had only three members, the City of Sarnia, Sarnia Township and Point Edward. Now Sarnia, Point Edward, St. Clair Township, Plympton-Wyoming, Warwick and part of Lambton Shores use the system and sit on its board. Alvinston uses the water but does not sit on the board.
Point Edward Mayor Dick Kirkland said he planned to raise the issue of water fluoridation at the system’s meeting today after a Health Canada study suggested new standards for fluoride levels in drinking water. The local water supply already falls within those standards.
Lambton Shores Mayor Gord Minielly said he wants fluoride pulled from the system. He thinks the science that supports the use of fluoride is outdated and children are overexposed. He says even Dr. Chris Greensmith, the medical officer of health, doesn’t have the facts.
“It’s such a complicated issue,” he said. “People are being feed a whole bunch of crap from guys like Dr. Greensmith who are using 40, 50 or 60-year-old information and studies.”
But Greensmith said the data he’s reading accumulated over the past six decades, not from that time. He said the American Public Health Association has called the addition of fluoride into water systems one of the 10 most successful public health measures ever.
“My position is not based on rhetoric, it’s based on science,” Greensmith said. “I don’t want to get in a mudslinging match here. It’s not very seemly or very productive.”
St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold, who sits on the system board, said he hasn’t made up his mind either way on the issue. He wants to know more about the added benefits of fluoride before he makes a decision on behalf of his constituents, he said.
“There’s a reason why were were elected as politicians,” Arnold said. “We represent the feelings of our municipality on that board. I believe that’s who should be ultimately responsible for that decision.”
Bradley said the debate will be divisive if it’s reopened. He has dealt with the issue three times over past 10 years, including a divisive debate at city hall three years ago. He hopes that if it comes to a plebiscite, that would silence debate.
“I would prefer not to get into this debate,” Bradley said. “That’s why I broke the tie back in 2005. The reality is there seems to be an (anti-fluoridation) movement. It’s a perennial issue . . . it just doesn’t go away.”