Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health says the Ontario government should be making the decision to fluoridate public drinking water, rather than having that decision rest with local municipalities.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of health, Dr. David Colby said fluoridation remains a “great triumph of public health” and that its use has helped improve the health of society’s most vulnerable citizens, especially those who are young or living in poverty.

And yet the question of whether fluoridation ought to be used in public drinking supplies continues to rest with local councils, whose elected members are sometimes placed under political pressure to remove the chemical, despite its proven success, said Colby.

“There has been controversy over the use of fluoridated water, but only because there are people who disagree with the practice and who lobby local councils to have it removed,” said Colby.

“We need to have this issue addressed at the provincial level; it should not be an issue that’s left to the municipalities.”

His comments were made in response to a resolution from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Board that advocates a provincial approach to water fluoridation.

Fluoridation is credited with reducing dental decay, but its detractors say the chemical should not be included in public water supplies. The Simcoe Muskoka letter says several municipalities in Ontario have discontinued community water fluoridation. Over the past five years, the loss has impacted 471,590 people, or almost 4% of the province’s population.

“The task of defending water fluoridation at the local level is resource intensive,” writes the Simcoe Muskoka group. “When public health units are required to advocate at various municipalities concurrently, the demand is unmanageable, and too often ends in a loss of community water fluoridation.”

Chatham-Kent’s board of health concurred with the Simcoe Muskoka resolution.

Coun. Joe Faas, who made the motion, said he could recall that the issue of fluoridation was raised in Dresden several decades ago but lost in a plebiscite, mostly because of a strong argument waged against fluoridated water from a local physician.

Fluoridated water was introduced into the water supply for the former City of Chatham about 25 years ago.