A contentious debate facing Calgary over whether fluoride should be ditched from the drinking water will soon migrate south with the City of Lethbridge gearing up next month for its own round of talks on the divisive issue.
Prompted by a citizen in that city, the subject is now scheduled for a February committee meeting in Lethbridge that will likely feature a presentation by a University of Calgary professor opposed to fluoridation.
But the renewed movement to can fluoride in two of southern Alberta’s largest cities has this province’s health authority worried, as they maintain the compound is effective and safe in drinking water.
Dr. Richard Musto, a medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, suggests this is part of a broader push against fluoride emanating from a group lobbying out of the United States. He is urging politicians to keep fluoride.
“Water is a precious thing,” Musto said in an interview. “It’s something that we tended to take for granted in Canada, because we’ve got so much of it. But it’s a very precious thing and so I think that makes it an emotional issue for some people.”
The man who broached the subject before Lethbridge council this fall is citizen Neil Alho. While he is no expert, he said he has researched the fluoride issue and is convinced it is not effective in drinking water, can harm some people and there are worrisome ethical questions about adding the compound.
After hearing from Alho, Lethbridge council in November decided to send the issue to a community issues committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 28. What happens next will depend on whether an alderman puts forward a resolution at a future council meeting to either bar fluoride or support its continued use.
But the mayor of Lethbridge said this all was sorted out just a year and a half ago. Rajko Dodic said at that time council asked the local health authority to look into the issue: they came back recommending fluoride be kept in the water and he accepted those conclusions.
He said his mind will only change if “the weight of the science, and that is the majority of the science, would have to convince me that the negative outweighs the positive.”
Lethbridge has added fluoride to its water since 1972, after a plebiscite.
“The ethical grounds for fluoridation of public water supplies are not just on shaky grounds, they’re on grounds that aren’t there,” said Dr. James Beck in an interview. Beck is a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary’s medical school who’s been asked to present at the February meeting.
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