Town of Fairview council listened carefully to two presentations about fluoridation at their May 19 meeting and decided not to proceed with a bylaw repealing the bylaw authorizing the addition of fluoride to water – for now.
Instead, the town will take the question to plebiscite in the fall, when most people have returned from summer vacation.
Larry Wagner who teaches at St. Thomas More School, told council his family lived in another community with fluoride added to the water before moving to Fairview which also has fluoride added and his children have not had any cavities, even now as adults.
He said while it might be genetic, he doesn’t believe that to be the case as both he and his wife have numerous repaired cavities in their teeth and both grew up without the benefit of fluoride in the drinking water.
He finished saying, we have to trust the ministries that monitor our drinking water and asked council to consider the positive effects of fluoride before voting on the bylaw.
Dr. Tony Prybysh, Fairview’s only dentist, also spoke in favour of retaining fluoride in the water. Dr. Prybysh told council there are many substances which are harmful if abused or misused but are otherwise helpful.
He said some internet postings make use of coincidences to “prove” that fluoride is harmful. He said statistics show that 90% of people involved in motor vehicle collisions ate carrots in the week preceding but he would never suggest banning carrots.
Prybysh said the government has enacted procedures and standards to make sure the fluoride added to our water is safe and the amount added optimizes existing levels of fluoride already in the water.
He added the regulation of fluoride it is not a willy-nilly red-tape process, it is based on science and is changed as science makes possible.
He added there are not deaths, disorders or the like attributable to the fluoride in the water.
He said while there are a few more cavities in the past few years, the incidence is still much lower than it was before fluoride was added to the water.
He finished by saying if council has confidence in the standards set by the government, if they have confidence in the water treatment plant and treatment plant operators, they should defeat the proposed bylaw removing fluoride treatment.
Council brought up the fact a dentist in Grande Prairie is trying to change water treatment there and Prybysh explained that dentist is not anti-fluoride, he just wants them to use fluoride from natural sources.
Councillor Tim Schindel said he had done a lot of research and was surprised at the number of foods which list fluoride as an ingredient including cereal and juice and asked if that would have the same effect as fluoride in the water.
Prybysh said the actual amounts were quite small and would not protect teeth to the same extent.
Asked about fluoride in toothpaste and why toothpaste packages warn not to swallow the toothpaste, Prybysh said there are other substances in toothpaste besides fluoride and that fluoride itself, consumed in large quantities, could cause fluorosis on teeth.
He added that fluoridated toothpaste is only an adjunct to the fluoride in water for preventing cavities.
Councillor Dennis Radbourne said what people have been telling him is they object to being medicated without having a choice about it.
Besides the presentations there were emails: Dr. Jim Henderson was in favour of ceasing fluoridation – he said “There are more than enough commercial products containing fluorides to meet our needs for trace amounts of this very toxic chemical.”
An email from Kassey Zatko, who does not live in Fairview but does work in town claimed fluoridation holds no health benefits.
An email from Sean Fife (fluoridefreelethbridge) said people have the right to decide when they take medication.
There were four comments from the Town of Fairview facbook page (Derek Simpson, Jaron Brauer, Lori Boytinck and Jesse Brown) who would like to see fluoridation stopped.
Linda Nicholson sent an email in favour of continuing fluoridation, as did firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom and Lori Stoskey sent an email to say they are not in favour of fluoridation and Alberta Health (Dr. Albert S. de Villier) sent a letter in support of continuing fluoridation.
In discussion later in the meeting, councillor Larry Chorney said, “I don’t know where to start. I am not in favour of doing away with it.”
He added he “did not buy” any of the reasons for stopping fluoride treatment and would want it to go to plebiscite for a decision.
Councillor Owen Stanford said he was mostly neutral but would vote to repeal the bylaw authorizing fluoride.
Councillor Paul Buck said nobody would notice either way and said he was in favour of keeping it.
Councillor Dennis Radourne said “I’m on the fence,” adding that Dr. Prybysh had brought up some good points and asked if council would keep bringing the question back everytime somebody complained.
“We should make a decision and stick with it.”
Councillor Schindel said he is opposed to fluoride, initially because of cost concerns, safety concerns but the more he investigated the more doubts he had, adding, just because we did it 60 years ago doesn’t mean we have to continue.
He said his own children have white spots on their teeth which the dentist told him was too much fluoride – he has lived in communities with fluoride treatment and also gave them fluoride drops.
Mayor Gord MacLeod said he had looked at eight different websites for information and suggested council should go to the public.
Asked about costs, Director of Public Works Garry Leathem said testing (which he pegged at $8,000) is a major part of costs.
He said the testing has to be done daily according to regulations.
Councillor Owen Stanford said quite a few people had been on his case about fluoride treatment but when he investigated, he satisfied himself it was safe and the town was doing a good job of testing etc.
Asked what the cost of a plebiscite would be, Director of Legislative Services Monika Ralston said it wouldn’t be huge because she would be doing most of the work.
Councillor Schindel said the plebiscite would add more longevity to the decision and when Councillor Buck moved council refer the decision to plebiscite it was approved unanimously.
Council also approved the suggestion that water co-op customers be given the opportunity to vote in the plebiscite