Nothing has been firmed up. However, as improvements are made to the county’s water infrastructure, there will be opportunities to introduce fluoride where it presently isn’t offered.
“When working on other systems, it will be brought forward to council for consideration at that time,” Lee Robinson, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, told Norfolk council recently.
Norfolk County does not have a consistent policy on fluoridation.
This stems from the fact that the county – as a municipal entity — is only 15 years old. Norfolk continues to live with fluoridation decisions made by the lower-tier municipalities of the former Haldimand-Norfolk Region.
As it stands, water in Simcoe and Delhi (and Courtland) is fluoridated while water supplies in Waterford, Port Dover, and Port Rowan (and St. Williams) are not.
Fluoride has been added to municipal water for decades as a means of preventing tooth decay in children and adults. The mineral fortifies a tooth’s ability to resist decay.
The county has several options. It could put fluoridation on the municipal ballot during an election in some wards or across the county.
Or Norfolk council could make these decisions itself. Mayor Charlie Luke says this is a two-way street: Council could decide to add or remove fluoride depending on council’s wishes and those of the community.
A letter endorsing fluoridation from Dr. Malcolm Lock, Haldimand and Norfolk’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, was the point of departure for this week’s discussion.
In his letter, Lock cited a letter from Dr. Eric Hoskins of Simcoe, Ontario’s Minister of Health, and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, endorsing the health benefits of fluoridated water.
In their letter, Hoskins and Williams cite a Centres for Disease Control report saying that every dollar spent on fluoridation saves $38 in dental bills.
“Removing fluoride from drinking water will place those least able to afford or access dental treatment at a much higher risk for oral health problems,” the doctors say. “The health benefits of drinking fluoridated water extend to all residents in a community – regardless of age, socio-economic status, education or employment.
“Municipal leaders should consider carefully the range of factors and implications of removing fluoridation from municipal drinking water systems. We urge all of you to support fluoridation of drinking water in your communities so that everyone can enjoy the long-term health benefits.”
Lock says there is abundant evidence to back up the claim that fluoride provides positive health benefits.
“The global weight of scientific evidence favours fluoridation as a cost-effective contribution to dental and general health,” he says. “(Fluoridation) most benefits those who do not have access to adequate dental care or alternative supplemental fluoride sources.”
Although fluoridation is a long-standing practice, it remains controversial in some quarters. At bottom, opponents argue that governments have no business “medicating” the water citizens drink.