Say goodbye to fluoride in your drinking water, Metro Moncton.
Moncton city council voted last night to put a moratorium on fluoride use in the municipal water supply for the next five years.
The city’s plan is to then review the decision, and in the meantime, council voted that, “Moncton request the N.B. Department of Health and/or the N.B. Dental Society to collect appropriate data over this time period using valid statistical research methods, comparing dental cary (cavity) rates among individuals of different ages in fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated communities in N.B., in order that the issue be appropriately assessed.”
It’s a decision that means Dieppe and Riverview will no longer have fluoridated water either, because they buy their water from the City of Moncton-owned water supply.
Dieppe last week reversed an earlier decision, indicating it now wants the water it buys to be free of fluoride. That leaves the Town of Riverview, whose council endorsed continued fluoridation in October, to either do without or find a way to add it at the two points where water enters the town from the Moncton supply.
Background material provided by City of Moncton staff suggested Riverview would have to spend about $250,000 on each of two treatment stations it would have to construct, and Moncton’s general manager of engineering said Monday night it’s the sort of thing that’s “easier said than done.”
“The devil is in the details,” Jack MacDonald told Moncton council, suggesting Riverview would likely also have to hire outside expertise to design, build and possibly maintain its own fluoridation system.
The Moncton vote was somewhat close, 7-4 with all 11 councillors present. Voting to discontinue fluoride in the water supply were Ward 1’s Paulette Thériault and Steven Boyce; Ward 3’s Brian Hicks and Daniel Bourgeois; Ward 4’s Paul Pellerin, the mover of the motion, and René ‘Pepsi’ Landry; and Councillor-at-Large Pierre Boudreau, who seconded the motion.
Voting against the motion and arguing for maintaining fluoride in the water supply were Mayor George LeBlanc, Deputy Mayor Kathryn Barnes, and Ward 2’s Merrill Henderson and Nancy Hoar.
The city has fluoridated its water since the 1960s as a means of preventing cavities in teeth, particularly among children, but public opinion across Canada on the topic is increasingly skeptical whether adding chemicals to drinking water is the proper way to address the issue.
Critics say at best, fluoride is not necessary and an invasion of citizens’ right to choose; at worst it’s a poison that accumulates in the human body to bad effect.
On the other hand, as Moncton’s mayor put it yesterday, “Health Canada, the Canadian Dental Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, Canada’s chief dental officer, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer, the New Brunswick Dental Society, and the New Brunswick Dental Hygiene Association all endorse water fluoridation within acceptable levels is a safe, efficient and effective method in preventing tooth decay and related oral health issues.”
Moncton spends about $100,000 fluoridating the water each year, even though the public health measure is a provincial and not a municipal responsibility.
Speaking in French, Daniel Bourgeois argued it was time to give the idea of removing fluoride a try, suggesting that even if the city did want to continue aiding the province in improving dental health, it could give every Moncton school child a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush for less money than it spends on fluoridating water.
He noted that was especially a viable option since some of the research provided to council in recent months says topically applying fluoride products is far more effective than having it ingested in drinking water.
There was some talk of putting the matter to a plebiscite in the spring when New Brunswickers go to the polls in municipal elections, but ultimately the council took charge of the decision.
Pellerin noted “dental care has greatly improved in the last 40 years, including the addition of fluoride to toothpaste,” suggesting that may have made fluoridated water unnecessary.
Hicks noted several Canadian cities – Calgary, Thunder Bay, Gatineau and Waterloo – have recently dropped fluoride from their water supplies.
The mayor, in siding with those wanting to maintain the fluoride, countered Hicks’ comments by pointing out Laval had done away with fluoride only to resume fluoridation when the rates of dental caries started to go up.
Saying he thought the whole matter should be more properly decided by provincial and federal leaders, with their responsibilities for health and public health, rather than by municipalities wrestling with the issue on a case by case basis, LeBlanc said he would nevertheless vote with the experts.