In a 3-2 vote this week, Township of Nairn & Hyman council voted to drop fluoride from the municipal water supply.
Councillors Brigita Gingras, Charlene Martel, Rod MacDonald and Riet Wigzell were deadlocked, so Mayor Laurier Falldien broke the tie in favour of dropping fluoride
A survey had been sent out during the previous month that asked residents if they wanted the chemical. The number of surveys handed in was not enough to determine the township’s wishes.
Gingras said those who didn’t write in their opposition to the chemical must be OK with the fluoridation, adding they would have voiced their opposition.
Falldien countered by saying the taxpayers expect the elected officials to make the decisions for them.
“I think a lot of taxpayers do put their trust in us to make the right decision on their behalf,” said Falldien.
During a tense discussion between Gingras and Falldien, she said she put her faith in health professionals and scientists who have studied fluoridation in water and recommend keeping the chemical in.
“Do you have the knowledge to make an informed decision about fluoride?” she asked. “As a councillor, I am struggling with that decision.”
She said she’d rather have professionals decide rather than themselves or the taxpayers. She said misinformation is being taken from the Internet by those wanting to remove the chemical.
“I think that is where the mistake would be. If anything, the decision should be made by us if it is going to be made by anybody.”
MacDonald, who favoured having the fluoride dropped, wanted to wait to see if the provincial government was going to mandate there be fluoride in water, which is something Gingras was also hoping.
“There is so much going around Ontario right now,” said MacDonald, adding that Cornwall is looking to add fluoride to its water supply.
Falldien said the town would have to upgrade its water equipment regardless of whether the province mandated, but added he doesn’t think the province will be successful in mandating fluoride be in drinking water.
“We need to have the backbone to make the decision here tonight,” said Falldien.
MacDonald said he came prepared to vote Monday night to remove it, but added that he wanted to wait for information from the province.
“If we do remove fluoride what is the worst things that happen?” asked Falldien. “Cavities among our children raise by 10 per cent to 12 per cent?”
He is referring to the situation in Calgary where dentists saw a rise in cavities in children after fluoride was removed from the water supply in 2011.
“What if fluoride is causing all this other stuff?” he continued. “What if we have the ability right now to make that change?”
Gingras agreed that in extreme amounts, fluoride is dangerous, but said anything could be if done in excess.
“We have to absolutely look towards our health professionals, Mr. Chair, and whatever endorsements they have, I believe I will always endorse their recommendations,” she said.
MacDonald said he wanted to see some more data from other municipalities, but Falldien said the information has been provided.
“I just don’t feel comfortable taking it out and in five years from now we find out we made a mistake,” MacDonald said. “I got to live in this town.”