A group opposed to Owen Sound adding fluoride to its drinking water says it has collected enough signatures to compel the city to hold a plebiscite on whether the practice should end.
Spokesperson Sandra Barker said she is planning to deliver the petitions to city hall Monday.
“We were told we had to have 1,643 signatures,” the Owen Sound resident said Friday. “We’re well over that amount.”
Owen Sound has been adding fluoride to its water supply since 1965.
Since a majority of city electors – 59.94 per cent – voted in support of the practice in a 1997 referendum, Ontario law says another plebiscite that produces the opposite result is required before it can end.
City council put the question on the ballot again in the last municipal election in 2014.
Electors upheld the 1997 decision, with 55.59 per cent of voters saying the city should not discontinue the practice.
The current council did not vote before a March 1 deadline to hold another plebiscite during the upcoming Oct. 22 municipal election.
The only other way the city would be compelled to hold the referendum is if the clerk is presented by May 1 with a petition, signed by at least 10 per cent of Owen Sound electors, that requests the plebiscite.
The Fluoridation Act sets out the question that would appear on the ballot, the city says. It is: “Are you in favour of the discontinuance of the fluoridation of the public water supply of this municipality?”
If more than 50 per cent of votes support discontinuing fluoridation, council would have to pass a bylaw to remove fluoride from the municipal water supply.
Owen Sound is the only municipality in Grey-Bruce that adds fluoride to its water supply. In some communities, particularly in western Bruce County, fluoride occurs naturally in the water people drink.
Adding fluoride to the municipal drinking water supply is a contentious issue.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit says fluoride additives meet standards for quality and purity before being added to water at recommended levels.
It says numerous studies have demonstrated that low levels of fluoride in drinking water can reduce cavities by 20 to 60 percent, while having no other harmful effects. The optimal level for fluoride is 0.7 milligrams per litre.
After the 2014 plebiscite, public health said municipal water fluoridation benefits everyone, in particular the most vulnerable like children and seniors who may not have the best dental care.
Water fluoridation is supported by many national and international organizations. Health Canada, for example, says is has proven to be a safe, effective and equitable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay.
Opponents of community water fluoridation, meanwhile, say it is an outdated, ineffective practice that is not safe, poses a threat to human health and should not be forced on people.
Barker said members of her group have heard concerns from many people about water fluoridation in Owen Sound since they began collecting signatures last spring.
She said Owen Sound adds hydrofluorosilicic acid to its drinking water, but it has no control over how much each individual ingests. Fluoride is a neurotoxin, she said, that affects different people in different ways.
“There’s a wide range of sensitives to it, according to health and age and things like that,” she said. “To put a drug in the public water and say, go ahead, drink as much as you want for as long as you want, can you think of any other drug that they can do that with?”