Nova Scotia public health officials plan to meet with representatives from Cape Breton Regional Municipality in the upcoming weeks to press the case to keep fluoride in the water.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief public health officer, said health officials will be providing scientific evidence on the debate as the municipality considers a request to pull the plug on the practice of providing fluoridated water to residents.
“We’ll be looking to work with them,” Strang said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, anti-fluoride activist Marlene Kane appeared before the municipality’s committee of the whole to make a case for stopping the practice in Sydney, North Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford.
Kane told the committee that overexposure to fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, a condition caused by too much fluoride when teeth are developing in children.
Strang said those opposed to fluoride in water are misinformed about its dangers, a point health officials will make to municipal decision-makers.
Adding fluoride to municipal water systems is an important practice because it provides protection for “marginalized” people who may not have access to regular dental care or practice routine dental hygiene, he said.
Earlier in the month, Calgary city council voted to stop the practice of fluoridating water, while Waterloo, Ont., pulled the plug on it last summer.
Strang said he was disturbed that Calgary council refused input from health experts before making its decision.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality has postponed making a decision on the matter for 60 days in order to gather more information and to hear from the public.
At Tuesday’s meeting, deputy mayor Darren Bruckschwaiger said he would be extremely nervous to end the practice without recommendations from Health Canada or the provincial Health and Wellness Department.
The public may not even be aware of the issue and they have to be consulted, Bruckschwaiger said.
“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.”
Kane said people aren’t forced to get flu shots, “yet thousands are forced to swallow fluoride because someone else thinks it might reduce tooth decay.”
Water fluoridation started in Canada 60 years ago.
Fluoride is also available in toothpaste and mouthwashes.