SYDNEY — A decision on whether to continue using fluoride in water systems in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been put on hold for 60 days.
After more than an hour of debate Tuesday, the CBRM committee of the whole opted to hear from proponents of water fluoridation, as well as opinions from the local medical community.
It was the second time since 2009 that community activist Marlene Kane has brought the issue before the CBRM, in an attempt to reverse a decades’ old policy of injecting the municipal water systems in Sydney, North Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford with fluoride as a medicating ingredient against tooth decay.
“We’re not forced to get flu shots or have our children vaccinated, yet thousands are forced to swallow fluoride because someone else thinks it might reduce tooth decay,” Kane told the committee.
She said overexposure to fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which leaves pits and white marks on teeth, and alters the development of growing teeth in children.
Several councillors wanted more information before voting on eliminating fluoride from the water supply.
Deputy Mayor Darren Bruckschwaiger said he would be “extremely nervous” to end the practice without prior government recommendations from Health Canada or the Department of Health
He also added the public may not even be aware of this issue and they need time to be consulted.
“As elected people we should give our communities an opportunity to speak, especially if it’s on a new issue and it’s something that they’ve been having in their water for 50 years,” Bruckschwaiger said.
The type of fluoride used in the CBRM is called hydrofluorisilic acid, which is a byproduct from fertilizer and is certified for use in water supplies, CBRM water utility manager Mike MacKeigan said.
MacKeigan couldn’t answer questions asking why municipalities decided to continue to fluoridate water supplies after it was first introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. It costs an estimated $60,000 a year to add the chemical to the water system in CBRM.
He said the municipality should continue using fluoride in its drinking water supply until Health Canada, the Canadian Dental Association and others oppose its use in drinking water.
“We rely on organizations like Health Canada … to gather all the scientific evidence available to them that suggests this is a safe means of fluoridating, or providing oral health, to individuals in the community.”
Calgary city council’s decision three weeks ago to end water fluoridation despite opposition from health professionals including Calgary’s chief medical officer has reignited the debate.
Coun. Claire Detheridge, who originally moved the motion to stop water fluoridation, said there wasn’t “sufficient proof fluoridation has any benefits.”
She said nowadays people are more conscious of dental health and fluoride comes in many forms including many brands of toothpaste.