Waterloo councillors voted last night to hold a plebiscite in the 2010 municipal election on whether fluoride should be kept in the drinking water.
It will Waterloo’s fourth vote on fluoride, which has been in the drinking water since 1967.
Kitchener and Cambridge do not fluoridate their water, although Cambridge’s water has some fluoride naturally.
Councillors also voted to start a public information campaign with the Region of Waterloo to ensure residents understand the pros and cons of fluoride.
“We need to get all sides of the story,” Mayor Brenda Halloran said in an interview later.
For nearly three hours last night, politicians heard from both sides of the debate.
Liana Nolan, the medical officer of health for the region, told council she’s in favour of water fluoridation. Putting fluoride in the water is a safe and cost-effective way to prevent cavities, she said.
The rate of cavities among elementary schoolchildren in the region is highest in Kitchener, at 44 per cent, followed by Cambridge, at 33 per cent, then Waterloo, at 32 per cent.
In an interview, Nolan said fluoride is a “significant factor” in the Waterloo rate.
Fluoride in water is not a health hazard under the Safe Drinking Water Act, said Bill Garibaldi, director of water services for Waterloo.
Organizations such as the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization support fluoridation.
On the other side of the debate was dentist Mitra Doher and citizens Robert Fleming and Carole Clinch.
“Ninety per cent of fluoride in water is a toxic waste product,” said Doherty. She said she got her information from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology.
Coun. Angela Veith put forward a motion to suspend putting fluoride in the drinking water until the region can prove the water is safe. The motion, which was supported by Coun. Diane Freeman, was lost.
“We need a couple of years to look at all the information,” Coun. Mark Whaley said.
The city was torn apart by the fluoride debate in June 1981, when a narrow majority — 51 per cent — of residents voted to continue the practice. In November 1982, 59 per cent of voters favoured keeping fluoride in the water.
Opponents say there is scientific data on the negative effects of fluoride, which include cancer, fluorosis, hip fractures and suppressed thyroid function.