PEEL—Brampton councillor John Sprovieri says he wants to see the water fluoridation debate reopened in Peel Region.
But some of his colleagues on regional council are not entirely convinced that revisiting the issue is the way to go.
“I really see no reason to reopen the issue based on all the evidence we were given,” said Mississauga Councillor Nando Iannicca. “I made my decision. I think regional staff has informed us very well and … I see no reason to reopen the issue.”
After putting the fluoride debate to rest in 2011, following months of debate on the merits of continued fluoridation of the municipal water supply, regional councillors voted last week to form another subcommittee. The purpose of the committee, explained staff, is to help educate newly elected councillors on the ‘pros and cons’ of fluoridation, which many municipalities do to improve oral health and tackle tooth decay.
Peel has added fluoride to water supply for more than four decades, but has come under fire in recent years from residents’ groups that want to see the practice abandoned.
Opponents have argued exposure to too much fluoride actually cause, rather than prevent, health problems. They also contend people should have a choice on whether their taps provide fluoridated or non-fluoridated water.
Sprovieri supports those views.
“Water fluoridation was the main issue that motivated me to run again,” said Sprovieri. “I was ready to retire but this issue of fluoridation has not been resolved.”
In September, a lawsuit was launched against the Region of Peel and the Province of Ontario. A statement of claim filed by Mississauga resident Liesa Cianchino claims risks posed by water fluoridation greatly exceeds its benefits.
It challenges the constitutionality of the Region of Peel’s water fluoridation program and the Fluoridation Act, and argues, “that the Region was negligent for failing to ensure the safety of the municipal drinking water supply.”
Sprovieri said it was the unfinished business around the fluoridation issue — namely the pending lawsuit — that prompted him to extend his political career.
“I believe regional council has put residents at risk,” said Sprovieri.
Peel staff said this week that the municipality “is proceeding with preparing its defence” and that the lawsuit will be defended by both the Province and Region.”
In April 2011, council unanimously voted to continue fluoridation arguing it is “the most effective, equitable, and economic way to protect dental health.”
Councillors decided after hearing arguments from both sides of the fluoridation debate including Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. But that ruling hasn’t deterred opponents from pressing the issue.
Sprovieri, who initially supported, but eventually changed his stance on fluoride, said he wants to see the debate reopened. He said there’s enough new blood on council – 11 of 24 regional councillors are new – to warrant another look.
While new councillors are entitled to an education on fluoridate, some veteran politicians say they have no interest in revisiting fluoridation unless there is something new to add to the discussion.
“It’s a new council. By all means form a committee and get the information. We’ll see what that brings forward,” Iannicca said. “If they do want to formally reopen the issue I will want to know what the evidence is. I don’t want to just re-debate it. What’s changed?”
Iannicca said he supported the formation of the fluoridation subcommittee for the sake of the new councillors.
“I support the subcommittee but don’t sort of backdoor try to reopen the issue without really reopening it on our agenda,” Iannicca said.
“You can’t just say ‘well, we lost last time and we want to win this time.’ If we did that (repeatedly debate the same issues) we wouldn’t get anything done in government.”