Local public health officials, dentists and doctors turned out in force Monday in an effort to convince North Bay politicians to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply.
Council heard from six presenters about the preventative benefits of fluoride and was warned that removing the chemical from the city’s tap water would lead to increased tooth decay and added financial pressures for the working poor and social services.
“Public health overwhelmingly supports fluoridation without hesitation or reservation,” said medical officer of health Dr. Jim Chirico, who pointed to decades of experience and research indicating the practice is both a safe and effective measure for preventing cavities.
Chirico also argued against the notion of doing away with fluoride because it’s a workplace hazard, noting there have essentially been no Workplace Safety Insurance Board claims associated with the handling of the chemical.
Dr. Fuad Karim, of the North Bay and District Dental Society, told council local dentists are more than concerned about the possible removal of fluoride from the city’s drinking water.
“We are in fear of it,” he said, suggesting the move will harm the community, especially its most vulnerable residents – including children and the poor.
Karim said the removal of fluoride will lead to more cavities and in turn more pain and suffering and more complex and costlier dental procedures which, in many cases, will be funded through Ontario Works and other social services programs.
And Karim said local dentists believe an investment by the city of $50,000 per year for the to help “rust-proof” residents’ teeth is good value.
Dr. Kevin O’Grady told council how he has personally witnessed the benefits of fluoride after opening a dental office here in 1964 shortly after the city started adding the chemical to the water supply.
O’Grady spoke about the tooth decay he saw firsthand in older children who didn’t get fluoride early on. And he recounted the improvements he witnessed over the years as the city continued to fluoridate its water.
“Please don’t throw it away,” said O’Grady.
His wife, Sandy, warned council about the “rogue” science that can be found online opposing the use of fluoride and she urged the group to put their trust in credible research.
“If the present council votes to remove fluoride from our municipal water supply, it will be the most heartbreaking decision ever made by one of our councils,” she said, suggesting the move would deny positive dental health care to the community.
Dr. Paul Preston, chief of primary care at the North Bay Regional Health Centre, said local physicians, who were shocked to hear the city was considering doing away with fluoridation, wanted to stand arm-in-arm with their public health and dental colleagues in opposition of the move.
Dr. Stephane Gauthier, a local gastroenterologist, told council when he first read that there was a possibility fluoride could be removed from the water supply he wondered “What type of backwards city do I live in?”
He also argued against eliminating fluoride because it’s a workplace hazard, suggesting the handling of such chemicals is part of the job of those who work at the city’s treatment facility. Gauthier also suggested there’s likely a greater need for fluoride in North Bay water due to a higher concentration of people receiving social assistance.
A majority of council was supportive of no longer fluoridating the city’s drinking water during a recent water and sewer budget meeting. The move would save the city about $50,000.
But a number of members may now be reconsidering their positions.
And Coun. Tanya Vrebosch, chairwoman of engineering and works, said she does not plan to bring the removal of fluoride forward as part of her committee’s 2016 budget recommendations. Instead, she suggested the matter be dealt with separately early on in the new year ahead of the 2017 budget.
Vrebosch said that suggestion would be further discussed during budget talks slated for Tuesday. She said it’s also possible the matter may be shelved altogether.