ORILLIA – City staff is poised to recommend fluoridation of Orillia’s water in a report co-authored by the public health unit.
“I think that’s going to be ultimately (the recommendation),” said water/wastewater engineer Jason Covey, the city’s lead on the project. “The health unit is our go-to people on health advice.”
Staff will make its recommendation when the report is presented at a May 29 public meeting.
The public health unit, which is urging council to fluoridate Orillia’s water, is contributing to the report.
“It is up to the city staff to decide what they will recommend,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health. “They have asked us to assist in writing sections related to health. In the end, it is their report.”
Any additional comments made by the public at the upcoming meeting would be reflected in a final report when it is presented to council in July.
“I do not definitively know what (staff’s recommendation) is,” Gardner said. “All the way along, the health unit has been a partner in this review and we have played the role of providing the best health evidence that we have at our disposal and our recommendation is based on that.”
Covey said staff was “obviously not reinventing the wheel” as it sifted through the research on the controversial issue.
“There have been reviews done of all the literature out there already, so it’s not necessary for us to try and complete a thorough scientific review all over again,” he added.
Staff has received a considerable amount of correspondence from those opposed to fluoridation.
“A lot of it is repetitive, so it hasn’t been too difficult to synthesize it into a compact list of, okay, here’s the issues and here’s how we can address them,” Covey added.
Public works staff would be involved in the design and maintenance of the fluoride system, he said.
“A large part of it is the health aspect to it, so a big portion of the deciding factors have to come from health experts,” he said.
Susan Schweitzer, a member of Orillia Citizens Against Fluoride, was “devastated” to learn of staff’s coming recommendation.
“I’m highly disappointed in the recommendation, but I hold city council to a higher standard than that,” she said. “I’m going to still maintain that I believe that they will do the right thing for the people, that once they weigh all the evidence, they will not fluoridate.”
Gardner disputed claims, presented to city last week that fluoridated water posed a risk to formula-fed infants.
“Health Canada, when they did their most recent review on community water fluoridation, took into account consumption of fluoride from all sources by a range of age groups, including dietary and water for fluoridated communities and oral hygiene,” he said.
Health Canada recommends a fluoride concentration of .7 parts per million.
“Their conclusion in their review is that community water fluoridation is safe with regards to infant feeding formula,” he added.
The recommended level of fluoride in water in Canada is lower than in some parts of the U.S., he added.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., “indicates that it is safe to use, but has the stipulation that people should be aware of the possibility of increasing risk of mild fluorosis (streaking of the teeth) with exclusive use of infant-fed formula,” Gardner said.
Health Canada and other agencies that support water fluoridation rely on a “balanced systematic review” of research and evaluate studies based on “quality criteria,” he added.
Gardner acknowledged the average person doesn’t have the training to undertake a systematic review of the evidence and would most likely rely on the word of professionals.
In the same breath, he said the health unit was making available the reviews it relies on via its web site.
“If somebody wanted to they could go through that and they could see that there is transparency in how it’s done,” he added.