A symbolic resolution passed by the Ontario government is giving notice to municipalities that it does not support removing fluoride from tap water.
The legislation, which was recently passed with the support of all parties, is not considered binding but designed to encourage and educate Ontarians about the health benefits of fluoride in tap water.
To have or remove fluoride in drinking water has been debated within communities across Ontario – and Canada – for decades.
Many health officials advocate for fluoride in tap water while opponents counter that too much fluoride can cause neurological damage.
As a result of the resolution, Health Minister Eric Hoskins has said he and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, will write to every municipal government and public health agency across Ontario in support of fluoridation.
Sault Ste. Marie CAO Al Horsman said he has not received that letter in his office yet.
However, Horsman said the city would look to the PUC to review and comment on the issue and from that, determine whether the matter should be brought before council.
A member of council can also choose to write a motion and seek the support of council for it.
Sault PUC communication supervisor Giordan Zin said the PUC has no plans to implement fluoride in tap water.
“We are working on our water quality issues first and we are seeking continued improvements in that area,” Zin said.
Sault Ste. Marie residents have rejected adding the fluoride chemical to the city drinking water on three occasions.
The last time was in 1985, by a margin of 63.5%, an even higher margin than the two previous referendums, in 1968 and 1970.
At that time, the city was said to be one of just four Ontario municipalities with populations over 80,000 that did not fluoridate. Wawa residents opted to add fluoride in the same municipal election and neighbours in the Michigan Sault drink fluoridated water.
In 2007, then-city councillor James Caicco attempted to bring the matter before the public again, but other councillors defeated a motion that requested a report, thus strangling the debate at an early stage.
Dentists and public health units have consistently advocated that adding fluoride to tap water is the most simple, cost-effective way to strengthen and develop children’s teeth.
In recent years, some municipalities have shut off the tap, ending fluoride in municipal water. Statistics show that those communities have seen increases in dental decay.
Despite the new provincial legislation, the issue is not one that the Algoma Public Health will raise at this time.
Ann Cuzzolino, a registered dental hygienist with APH said it is the responsibility of the city to request that the health unit open the fluoride debate again.
“APH has always supported fluoride as one of the most important population-based health strategy measures for the community,” she said.
In addition, the World Health Organization also considers fluoride a best practice, she said.
Since Sault Ste. Marie currently doesn’t have fluoride in its water, residents are encouraged to visit family dentists regularly for dental care and preventative fluoride treatment. Fluoridated toothpaste, brushing regularly and monitoring sugar intake are also other ways encourage healthy dental practices.
Fluoride has been added to tap water by municipalities since about 1945.
Fluoridation does not affect the appearance, taste or smell of drinking water. The controlled injection of the mineral to the public water supply is designed to reduce tooth decay.
There is some natural fluoride in drinking water but not enough to prevent tooth decay.