It’s staying in.
On Tuesday night town council voted unanimously to keep adding fluoride to the town’s water supply.
In a lengthy deputation to council, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Jim Chirico gave council a list of facts, refuting the town’s proposed move towards halting the addition of fluoride to the its water supply.
The question about whether to keep adding fluoride to town water was first brought to light during the September 2014 municipal all-candidates meeting, and soon after, council directed staff to conduct research and return with a report.
Peter Brown, director of public works, said he is neither a scientist, nor an expert in the public health field, nor well-versed in the advantages and disadvantages of the use of fluoride, but based his recommendation to council on his own observations and research about the fluoride chemical and the potential hazards for town staff who dispense it in its raw form.
“This chemical is highly dangerous to work with,” wrote Brown in his report. “Staff have to wear personal protective equipment each time the chemical is decanted. It has been shown to etch glass and degrade paint on walls in the plant. It is not a safe chemical. I believe the town may be placing the staff at risk when they are exposed to it.”
Dr. Chirico said the handling of chemicals among municipal workers and the performance of all municipal jobs carry some degree of risk.
“The statistics simply do not support an occupational health and safety risk argument that is the basis for making the recommendation,” he said.
In his report, Brown said the way the chemical is currently dispensed at the Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant is out of date and will need an update.
A number of municipalities have already or are in the process of reorganizing their chemicals and constructing specific rooms designed and built for that chemical. A luxury, Brown said, Parry Sound doesn’t have.
“When the plant was built, it was standard procedure to place all chemicals in the same room – as long as they didn’t react to one another. If we continue to use this chemical, public works will have to plan for such a design in the very near future, resulting in a significant cost to our ratepayers,” Brown said. “Ministry of Environment inspectors have commented about the location of fluoride in the past. There is considerable expense involved in relocating the chemical to a room that would be construed as safe. The town could have to bring in the original engineer to redesign the rooms and piping layout.”
According to Dr. Chirico, all minerals, elements and chemicals – even the chlorine the town currently puts in its drinking water – are dangerous in their raw form. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in rock, soil and water sources at varying levels and has been used in Canadian drinking water for more than 60 years.
“Public health overwhelmingly supports the continued fluoridation of our water supply, without hesitation or reservation,” said Dr. Chirico. “Every mineral, element and chemical known to man is toxic if used in excessive amounts…oxygen, water and salt – essential to life – will kill you, inhaled or ingested in excessive amounts. Try drinking undiluted chlorine – which you currently add to your drinking water to prevent water-borne diseases such as E-coli, cholera, and typhoid – you will die. So based on the toxic logic professed by the anti-fluoride movement we should also ban the use of chlorine.”
Although the cost savings for the town to stop putting fluoride in its water would be minimal – about $5,000 annually – Dr. Chirico said the cost to residents would be much higher.
“There’s an estimated $38 in avoided costs for dental treatment for every dollar invested in community water fluoridation. So the approximate $5,000 annual cost for Parry Sound to fluoridate their water supply is a very cost-effective investment an estimated $190,000 in avoided dental treatment costs…discontinuation of fluoride in the water supply simply shifts the cost to those who are least able to afford treatment and most vulnerable in our society; our children, our elderly and our poor.”
Dr. Chirico also refuted a number of claims that fluoride in drinking water causes cancer, bone fractures and lower intelligence.
“However well-intentioned some members of the public are, choosing specific articles from the internet is not scientific and can be harmful and dangerous. This type of review, is called selective review of the literature, it should never be used to inform decision-makers,” said Dr. Chirico. “These reviews aim to prove certain points by citing studies that supporting those points. To do so, selective reviews ignore a significant majority of the studies…contrary to your Public Works department argument, the rational for removing fluoride from your municipal drinking water system the continuation of fluoride in your drinking water system is cost effective and is a very low occupational health and safety risk.”
Council said they couldn’t refute Dr. Chirico’s arguments and voted to defeat the report and recommendation, thereby keeping fluoride in the town’s water.
“I’ve done a lot of research the last few months I’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails and certainly I’m not doctor, I’m not a scientist but I’m certainly not going to vote against information from our chief medical officer of health, the province of Ontario, the government of Canada, the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization about the fact that we put fluoride in the water,” said Coun. Brad Horne.
Coun. Keith Saulnier joked he is in fact a doctor and a scientist and said he agreed with Dr. Chirico.
“Everything I looked at just points to the simple fact that this is good for all of us and yes there is and has been advances in oral medicine and oral techniques, but you’ve got to be able to pay for it in some capacity, otherwise you don’t get it,” Saulnier said. “My vote is a no vote. I want the fluoride in the water.”
Similar to the anti-vaccination movement, Coun. Jim Marshall said those against fluoride are basing their information off of pseudo-science and articles found on social media sites like Facebook.
“It scares me that we can take something out of the water that’s basically less than a part per million molecules and have such an adverse affect on the people that really need this the most,” said Marshall.
Marshall also said he would like staff to look into the cost associated with having the chemicals in the water treatment plan separated to ensure the safety of town staff who are handling it.
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