Tecumseh – Tecumseh council may want to put the contentious issue of fluoridation of the town’s water to a public vote on November’s municipal election ballot.
After hearing from dentists and residents both for and against the expenditure of $243,243 to build a new fluoridation system, councillors decided the issue was too complex to make a decision and Councillor Doreen Ouellette moved that it be put it to a plebiscite.
“It’s a little confusing to myself to think of these things,” said Ouellette. “I’m not really sure that this council should vote on it… I think should go on the ballot.”
Ouellette’s motion passed by a 3-2 vote with Mayor Ed Renaud casting the deciding vote. Councillor Tom Fuerth and Deputy Mayor Gary McNamara were absent.
Town clerk Laura Moy will prepare a ballot question for council to vote on, but if it’s defeated it’s back to Square 1.
The town had to shut down its fluoridation plant in December 2001 after the provincial Ministry of the Environment condemned it as unsafe.
Plebiscite in 1969
The old Town of Tecumseh adopted fluoridation in 1969 after a 1968 plebiscite on the issue passed. Residents of the newer expanded town that includes the former Sandwich South and St. Clair Beach were not included in that vote.
Earlier at a public meeting, Dr. Charles Frank, of the Ontario Dental Oncology Group, told council fluoridation is a bargain that costs little per person and affords great savings on dental bills.
“The average person, without fluoride, needs twice the dental work,” said Frank.
McNamara questioned whether new research is indicating that the benefits of better teeth might not be worth it for the other health effects, such as increased cancer rates.
Other councillors also expressed doubts about the benefits of fluoridation.
“I would prefer it not be put in our water,” said Renaud. “With the information I’ve read, I’d rather be on the safe side.”
Concerned resident Arlene Stark said the majority of the world’s countries don’t put fluoride in the water.
“Europe doesn’t use any fluoride,” she said. “There are a lot of countriesthat don’t use fluoride and never have.”
B.C. towns opt out
In recent years a number of municipalities in British Columbia have voted to stop fluoridating their water.
Only five per cent of the water in British Columbia is fluoridated while the rate is 75 per cent in Alberta.
Historically fluoridation has been practised in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Most European countries have never fluoridated or have banned the practice altogether.