Anti-fluoride activists left London city hall disappointed Monday after a civic committee backed the continued treatment of city water.
Catcalls and heckling greeted politicians who spoke in favour of staying the course that began in 1967 when Londoners voted to fluoridate.
But one more vote on the issue will come May 1 when city council considers endorsement by its civic works committee.
“I think council will shut down fluoridation in its vote,” Coun. Dale Henderson predicted, adding “we’re poisoning our water system.”
He drew sustained applause but he isn’t a member of the committee and couldn’t vote.
So lobbying will continue a few more days.
The committee was presented with a petition Coun. Stephen Orser said contained 1,414 signatures of Londoners demanding an immediate halt to fluoridation.
Orser, acting as deputy mayor while Mayor Joe Fontana promotes London in Korea, Japan and China, said he wants to be able to tell his daughter the city is no longer trying to poison her. He said he buys her bottled water.
The Ward 4 councillor said failing an immediate ban, the city should ask voters in a plebiscite at the 2014 election to determine its fate.
“The fairest thing is to let the people decide,” Orser insisted.
About 60 anti-fluoride activists watched the debate, and some had to be warned to behave or face eviction.
In a report, city administration addressed concerns about health and other issues raised at a public meeting in January.
City staff recommended continued treatment of city water with fluoride because it prevents cavities and because the practice is recommended by bodies such as the World Health Organization, Health Canada, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
Siding with Orser to stop adding fluoride was Coun. Joni Baechler who said she’s health conscious and worried about adding chemicals to what people drink.
“I’d like to see staff prepare a strategy to remove fluoride from the system.”
Baechler pointed out she’s a member of one of the local water boards and takes her water responsibilities seriously.
Coun. Sandy White said she doesn’t care for fluoride in the water herself but poor Londoners want it to continue because of cavity reduction in children.
She was willing to let the public decide in a plebiscite.
Committee chair Harold Usher and member Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen were subjected to profanities and catcalls when they spoke in support of city staff. Usher and Van Meerbergen said they trusted staff and health experts.
“If you don’t have fluoride in the water, you’re going to have trouble with your teeth,” Usher warned.
Van Meerbergen said staff relied on scientific experts, and politicians must heed their advice. Also backing fluoridation was Coun. Paul Hubert who said lobbying failed to win him over.
And he said he is appalled at being accused of trying to poison people by anti-fluoride activists.
“I take real exception to that approach.”
Hubert said he prefers to make an evidence-based decision.
Medical officer of health Dr. Graham Pollett reiterated his support for fluoridation and said the health unit doesn’t have a program to mount to protect teeth if the practice ended.
With only Orser and Baechler opposed, the committee backed administration’s plan to carry on. A bid for a plebiscite also failed.