Churchill Mayor Michael Spence said no decision has been made to end fluoridation of the community’s water supply following a plebiscite earlier this month.

Spence said the town council is still sorting out the plebiscite’s mixed message: An overwhelming majority of only a handful of town adult residents voted to end fluoridation.

“We didn’t have a lot of people come out,” Spence said. “The low turnout can mean they don’t care.”

The plebiscite Oct. 18 attracted a turnout of about 28 per cent. Voters were asked: Should Churchill continue fluoridating its water?

Of the 159 people who cast a ballot, 58 per cent supported ending fluoridation.

Fluoridation has become a controversial issue in many North American communities. Adding fluoride to drinking water as an effective way to combat tooth decay was a practice that became widespread in the late 1950s and 1960s. However, questions over potential health hazards and its effectiveness as a cavity-preventer fuelled strong anti-fluoride lobbies.

Several countries in Europe have stopped water-fluoridation programs, including Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.

Closer to home, Flin Flon stopped adding fluoride to its water supply at the end of July and Calgary stopped in May.

Before the Churchill plebiscite, a spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said it supported continued fluoridation as an effective way to combat tooth decay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said past and current reviews of scientific studies found no basis to claims fluoride poses a health hazard. It describes fluoridation as one of the “10 great public-health achievements,” but it does advise that children’s exposure from birth to age six should be restricted.

Winnipeg has been fluoridating its water since 1956. The city recently lowered the fluoride content from 0.85 milligrams per litre to 0.7 mg/L, based on recommendations from Health Canada and Manitoba Health.

Spence said the plebiscite isn’t binding on council but added if fluoride is removed, the town should find an alternative method to combat tooth decay.

“Right now we’re still gathering some information,” Spence said. “We’ll deal with it at the appropriate time.”