The Cape Breton Regional Municipality didn’t really need almost two months to make the decision to continue putting fluoride in most municipal water supplies.
The decision was predictable.
The CBRM committee of the whole decided back on March 1 to put its decision on hold until it heard opinions from the local medical community.
But municipal councillors already knew that most Nova Scotian dentists and doctors (like their counterparts across Canada) are conservative when it comes to fluoride and are proponents of fluoridating municipal water supplies.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer, said around the same time that provincial public health officials planned on meeting with CBRM politicians to convince them that fluoride should stay in the water.
“In certain circumstances, including water fluoridation, I think particularly from a public health perspective that because of the benefits to the entire population … the value for the collective whole outweighs the individual choice,” said Strang.
The most recent angst-ridden reflection into whether or not the CBRM should continue to use fluoride was essentially the result of a one-woman campaign by Sydney activist Marlene Kane, who makes thoughtful arguments against fluoride in drinking water.
Others have aligned themselves with Kane in recent months, but the comments of some of those come close the kind of conspiracy theory jargon spouted by General Jack D. Ripper in the 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove.
“Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol?” asks Ripper. “Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?”
Instead of railing against been “force medicated” a “poison,” perhaps fluoride critics would do better to formulate an alternative to fluoridation.
The CBRM doesn’t fluoridate all its municipal water, which indicates officials don’t believe it’s essential. It costs the municipality about $60,000 a year and most of the fluoridated water isn’t consumed, but is instead literally flushed down the toilet.
That $60,000 might be better used to hire someone (even part-time) to travel to classrooms across the municipality to teach schoolchildren about dental health and hygiene, and provide toothbrushes, dental floss and toothpaste (fluoridated and/or non-fluoridated).
Not surprisingly, those against fluoridation are promising to keep up the fight. And the CBRM, like Calgary, might eventually decide that the spotty, contentious practice of fluoridation isn’t worth it.
But it shouldn’t be all or nothing. Education can take over where fluoridation leaves off.