Reexamination of the benefits and potential health risks that come from adding fluoride to Peel’s drinking water is officially underway.
Almost five years after Peel Regional councillors closed lengthy debate on the merits of municipal water fluoridation by unanimously voting to continue the longstanding practice, council members have reopened the issue.
Members of the Region’s newly established Oral Health in Peel Committee formally met for the first time last week. The committee met long enough to select a chair and vice-chair, then settle on a mandate for the group, which is comprised of regional council members.
Mississauga councillor Carolyn Parrish will serve as chair and Brampton councillor John Sprovieri, an ardent fluoridation critic, is the vice-chair.
Mississauga councillors Karen Ras and Jim Tovey, Brampton councillor Michael Palleschi and Caledon councillors Johanna Downey and Annette Groves are also sitting on the committee.
As Peel Regional chair, Frank Dale is an ex-officio committee member.
Committee members agreed to deliver recommendations on the continued use of water fluoridation as it relates to the oral health of Peel residents and proposed approaches to engaging the public in forming the Region’s positions on fluoridation.
The Region’s source for fluoride, the fluoridation process and additives, alternatives to community water fluoridation and new and emerging health data on municipal water fluoridation are among aspects to be reviewed.
As well, the committee intends to look at the oral health status, needs, programs and access to care for residents in the region.
In seeking consensus to lay the committee’s ground rules for conducting the reexamination of municipal water fluoridation, Parrish emphasized gathering “scientific information” should be their focus before reaching any conclusions.
Sprovieri has been fervent in his opposition to continued fluoridation of the municipality’s drinking water. He has given those in the community who believe the longstanding practice is harmful to the health of residents a loud and persistent political voice on council.
“Based on the information that I have gathered the last five years, I am convinced that artificial water fluoridation should be discontinued,” he said in an email to The Guardian.
Parrish said she wants to see all the facts before making up her mind, but pointed out statistics have suggested the type of fluoride being used in the region’s drinking water supply may no longer be a necessary benefit.
“World Health Organization tracking shows that the incidence of cavities in countries with and without fluoride in drinking water are going down at the same rate. They point to better pre-natal nutrition, better diets generally, fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwashes and better oral hygiene,” she noted.
Palleschi did not respond to an email asking committee members for their position on the issue. However, other committee members said they have not formed a position and plan to keep an open mind while reviewing scientific evidence and medical opinion on both sides of the debate
“Prior to being on council, I had not given water fluoridation much thought,” said Ras. “Since this matter has come up, I’ve been doing research and personally left the recent education session with more questions than I had before.”
The last time council considered this issue, it heard from a number of health officials, including Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, before concluding water fluoridation is a valuable public health tool in fighting poor oral health and other ailments that can stem from oral illnesses.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. Brampton councillor Michael Palleschi was misidentified as his father, former councillor Paul Palleschi. The Guardian apologizes for the error.