Fluoride Action Network

Calgary. Fluoride: let the people decide

Source: Calgary Herald | April 13th, 2009 | Editorial
Location: Canada, Alberta

Council should put the fluoride debate to the test and let the people spit out a decision as to whether it should remain in the city’s drinking water.

This raging debate could be settled if Ald. Druh Farrell’s call for another plebiscite is carried.

True, holding a third plebiscite in 20 years is tough for aldermen to swallow, but they should gulp it down anyway. New studies and ongoing research indicating there are medical risks from consuming too much fluoride make previous plebiscite decisions outdated.

The earlier votes on the issue were extremely close, indicating the public has always been divided on fluoride, (a chemical once used in rat poison.) In 1989, adding fluoride to drinking water passed by just 53 per cent. In 1998, it was reaffirmed by a very slight increase — 55 per cent.

We acknowledge some demographics may reap an advantage from fluoridation, for example the children of low-income families, who do not receive regular oral care. Still, they’re but a small percentage of the city’s population, and there are other ways of serving those who really need it: School-wide fluoridation programs and free dental products are alternatives that could achieve the same results, while eliminating the risks to those who don’t need it or want it, and would choose not to participate — possibly with good reason.

After all, the National Kidney Foundation has changed its mind on fluoride, contending last year in an updated position paper on its web-site that there are risks to those with kidney diseases, and they need to be made aware of them. The organization believes those risks include ” a rare bone disease called skeletal fluorosis, bone fractures and severe enamel fluorosis.”

Bottom line: People need another opportunity to sink their teeth into the new research. Aldermen Farrell, John Mar, Brian Pincott, Jim Stevenson and Andre Chabot initially commendably pushed to remove the chemical without consulting Calgarians, but narrowly lost the motion, 7 to 6. And, perhaps Mayor Dave Bronconnier was correct when he said aldermen lacked the technical background to make the decision.

However, the public that drinks the city water still has a right to reconsider, and a plebiscite is a good compromise. (Collateral benefit: It might even increase voter turnout, nudging Calgarians out of an apathy that has been abysmal during the past few municipal elections.)

This is a tough one all right. But, either one trusts voters to choose wisely in their own interests, or one merely says one trusts them. It is, in fact, precisely the kind of issue that should be turned over to them for periodic review, if public interest warrants it.

In this case, it does seem to.

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