A Calgary city councillor who voted to end fluoridation in the city five years ago says the vote was more nuanced than just “fluoride good or fluoride bad.” A joint report today from researchers at the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services shows Calgary children now have nearly twice as many cavities as kids in Edmonton where fluoridation continues.
Gian-Carlo Carra says the 10-3 vote to stop fluoridation in 2011 was, in part, a council reaction to Alberta Health Services insistence that health benefits outweighed any other concerns. Carra says today’s report is local data, but not all that different from the information presented to council. At the time, the councillor says the was facing big costs to upgrade water treatment plants. “We’re facing a $10-million upgrade fee to rebuild our fluoride injection system and we’re facing a $1-million a year cost. If this is a really important health measure (is AHS) prepared to pay for it? At which point they said, ‘No. Just do it.’”
Carra says there are times when the city does spend on issues that are considered provincial jurisdiction, but only after cost benefit analyses. “When we deal with poverty issues and we deal with social health issues, every dollar that we invest up front saves us 10s and 20s and 100s of dollars in police costs and other things we’re on the hook for.”
The Ward 9 councillor, who describes himself as “a believer in fluoride,” says at least part of his vote against fluoridation was due to AHS being unwilling or unable to make the case for fluoride and counter the massive amounts of on-line reports being quoted by opponents. “They’ve got to get their act together and do their job better and be a much better presence in the lives of Albertans.” He adds part of the city’s motion to end fluoridation included directing some of the savings to dental care for low-income families, which is apparently not as easy as it sounds. “I’m under the impression we had a very difficult time finding a public health avenue to direct those funds towards.”
Carra says on the doorsteps during the election campaign prior to the vote, fluoride was one of the issues he heard most about on doorsteps.