Fluoride in Terrace tap water is here to stay and a call for the city to hold a referendum on the matter has been rejected.
Council’s decision was made following a Northern Health Authority presentation by chief medical health officer Dr. Raina Fumerton in which she applauded Terrace’s leadership in being one of just four municipalities still fluoridating water in the province.
Fumerton presented fluoride as an indisputable good for public health based on its ability to prevent tooth decay, discounting what she said are emotion-based arguments of those who think that the risks of fluoride are outweighed by the dangers.
“The benefits of chlorine or fluoride to our drinking water far outweigh the risk of any adverse affects because the levels are very, very strictly controlled by our water operators,” she said.
Mayor Carol Leclerc said afterwards that the issue was settled.
“I think the recommendation from our committee of the whole is pretty unanimous that council wishes to remain with fluoridation in the water based on the evidence that has been presented today,” she said.
Councillor Stacey Tyers confirmed: “Our decision is to not send this back to referendum under this council,” she said.
Tyers was referring to the request, backed by a petition signed by more than 400 local residents, 260 of whom were from Terrace itself, calling on the city to bring the issue back to referendum in light of other communities in Canada having stopped adding fluoride to water supplies in previous years.
In particular, Fumerton was echoed by Tyers and fellow councillor Michael Prevost in saying that fluoride is an equity issue that brings increased dental health to the poorer segments of society.
Terrace has a high poverty level, added Tyers.
First Nations Health Authority representative Coco Miller accompanied Fumerton and added to her presentation.
Not only did councillors make it clear they intend to continue the program, but there is also talk of taking a leadership role in the province to advocate for fluoridation.
That could start with a letter to health minister Terry Lake in support of fluoride and preparing a resolution in support of fluoride for the next meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“The leadership is happening at the council level in saying that we want to continue with the fluoridation,” Leclerc said. “We will be sending a letter to Mr. Lake, the Minister of Health, to let him know we are staying with this because we believe it is a good thing to do for our community.”
The last time Terrace held a referendum on fluoridation was in 2005 as part of the municipal elections at the time. The vote came in at 1251 people wanting to keep fluoridating and 717 wanting to stop the practice.
Local resident and on-line radio talk show host Barry Prince, who spearheaded the most recent anti-fluoridation petition presented to city council last month, was incensed with the council decision.
“There’s something not right there,” he said. “There are many people in the community saying the same thing. What, are they just turning their back on us?”
“They are completely turning a blind eye to the effect of sodium fluoride on the body. They are going with a presentation by a health professional for northern health who promotes fluoridation,” he continued.
Councillor Lynne Christiansen, who previously expressed concern about water fluoridation, was not present at the meeting which was held March 11.
This was a committee of the whole meeting and the issue will come to an upcoming regular council meeting for a formal vote to reaffirm council’s stand.