A natural mineral. A great equalizer. One of the most important health interventions of the last century.
A toxin. A forced medicine. A cancer causer.
The meeting drew concerned parents, seniors and students who spoke alongside some of Canada’s leading health professionals during a marathon 10-hour meeting.
Following more than 30 presentations, regional council voted 11 to nine to continue fluoridating municipal water in Halton.
The decision upset more than a few spectators who waited patiently in council chambers.
“The Health Canada report does not assure fluoride is safe or effective. It concludes it does not support a link between water with fluoride and adverse health effects. But Health Canada’s own report associates water fluoridation with hip fractures in seniors,” said Oakville resident Diane Sprules.
Burlington Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said factors such as income, education and diet have far more relevant effects on dental health than water fluoridation does.
“In the last several decades water fluoridation has gone up and dental cavities have gone down. But we hear from Health Canada that there’s so causation evidence that the two are related. There’s no evidence between half of the population (in Canada) that is not fluoridated and half of the population that is, that the half not getting fluoridated water are at a significant risk.”
However, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Arlene King said the value of fluoridated water shouldn’t be underestimated.
Pointing to the City of Dryden which removed fluoride from municipal water and saw a 26 per cent increase cavities, she said, “I am very concerned about the loss of fluoridated drinking water in certain communities despite the evidence that it’s safe and effective.”
In the last 15 months, 13 Canadian municipalities have stopped fluoridating water. During that same period of time, no communities have started the practice.
The passionate delegations from both sides of the debate had councillors admitting they were going back and forth on how to vote throughout the meeting. Halton Hill Councillor Clark Somerville, who originally motioned to end fluoridation in 2008, surprised his colleagues by voting in support of the staff recommendation to continue fluoridating.
“That’s not the answer I would have given you five hours ago. But for the overall health and well-being of the region, the smartest thing for me as a councillor is to vote that way,” said Somerville. “That’s what best for the most vulnerable citizens.”
While the vote was close, there was one thing the majority of councillors agreed upon: this shouldn’t be a decision made by municipal politicians.
“This is a public health issue and should be in the jurisdiction of the provincial and federal government,” said Burlington Councillor John Taylor. “I have a chemistry background, but I’m still not a doctor, I’m not a dentists, I have to rely on that kind of interpretation from them.”
When asked by Halton councillors why the upper levels of government don’t mandate water fluoridation since it’s so highly recommendation by dozens of national and international health organizations, neither Dr. King or Health Canada’s Chief Dental Officer Dr. Peter Cooney could answer.
Said Burlington Councillor Blair Lancaster, “It’s ridiculous that this question has come to this council. We have two governments who are responsible for our health. They should be making this decision.”
Voting to continue water fluoridation in Halton were Regional Chair Gary Carr, mayors Rick Bonnette, Rick Goldring and Rob Burton and councillors Tom Adams, Keith Bird, Rick Craven, Jane Fogal, Clark Somerville and John Taylor. Voting to end fluoridation were councillors Colin Best, Allan Elgar, Alan Johnston, Jeff Knoll, Tony Lambert, Blair Lancaster, Marianne Meed Ward, Paul Sharman and Mayor Gord Krantz.