Families who drink bottled water exclusively are becoming more prone to cavities because they’re missing out on the fluoride in tap water, Coun. Lesley Parnell told the Peterborough Health Board during Wednesday’s meeting.
Parnell, also a board member, said she attended an Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference last month where she was told about this twist of fate for families trying to drink cleaner and safer water and where she learned more about fluoride, which Peterborough has used in its tap water since the 1970s.
She said dentists at the conference told her fluoride is safe and effective — a view also shared by Peterborough medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, although a group of Peterborough residents wants fluoride out of municipal water because studies over the last 70 years have linked it to cancer and adverse neurological effects.
“I want to acknowledge there’s an anti-fluoride movement out there and we want to focus on the positive aspects,” Parnell said.
The board voted for the health unit to put together an “educational road show” about the benefits of fluoridation to present to township councils and First Nation communities.
Board member Mary Smith said Pellizzari has done a good job at spreading the message through the media that fluoride is safe and effective.
“That message needs to continuously get out there,” said Smith, also reeve of Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield Township.
The travelling presentation should be interesting to township councils, said board chairman Andy Sharpe, also deputy reeve of Havelock-Belmont-Methuen.
“It’s something my township council knows nothing about,” Sharpe said.
Fluoridating township water would be a balancing act of supporting health and paying for it, he said.
“It would be another cost we’d have a hard time paying for,” Sharpe said.
City Coun. Henry Clarke said he gets at least one email every three to four months encouraging the city to stop fluoridation. Clarke made the motion for the travelling educational presentation; Parnell seconded the motion.
Between 10 and 20 people — the majority of which are on Ontario Works — are served every day at the health unit’s dental clinic in Peterborough Square, said Peterborough County-City Health Unit clinical services manager Ann Keys said during Wednesday’s board meeting.
Since opening in May, the clinic has served 108 people, including 33 who are younger than 18, Keys said.
“We see many people who have not had dental treatment for many years,” Keys said.
There are 96 on the waiting list, she said.
The clinic isn’t accepting people on Ontario Disability Support Program benefits yet, but is moving towards that, she said.
The clinic hired a part-time dentist in April, she said, and then two certified dental assistants and a registered dental hygienist in June.
The clinic is looking to hire another dentist and board member Mary Smith asked if Peterborough doctor recruiter John MacDonald was involved in this process.
Keys replied that she plans to ask MacDonald to help out.