Regional council members appear poised to bring the issue of fluoride in Halton’s drinking water back into debate.
Halton health officials will make a verbal update on the controversial issue at tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) health and social services committee meeting, at which time regional councillors will likely have to decide whether to deal with the issue in early 2009 or wait until 2010.
Council had previously deferred making a decision on whether to remove fluoride from drinking water at its last session on Nov. 19. Members voted to postpone the issue until both Health Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) had finished reviews of the same issue. Health Canada confirmed it will finish what it terms an update of its guideline technical document on optimal fluoridation levels in early 2009; however, the MOE said it will not be finished its review until 2010. That’s too long for some health committee members.
“I don’t want to see this wait for two years,” said Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville. Somerville last month made a motion to stop fluoridating water in Halton once current supplies of fluoride are used up and current contracts expire. The resolution was endorsed by the Region’s Health and Social Services Committee before being deferred at Council.
Milton Councillor Colin Best said Council members did not realize that the MOE would not be finished its review until 2010 when it made its deferral. He said council members were simply looking for a couple months to read over all the statistics they have received supporting both sides of the issue.
It’s one particular study, however, that has caused some concern among Halton residents.
In a report by Dr. Bob Nosal, the Region’s Medical Officer of Health, he included information on the oral health status of children in the region, collected using a ‘Dental Indices Survey’ in randomly-selected elementary schools in each municipality over two-year periods.
Oakville resident, Diane Sprules, included a statistic pulled from that survey in a presentation she prepared for Council, which said close to half of Oakville’s 13-year-olds have fluorosis, a condition that results from over-ingestion of fluoride and which is marked by white spots on the teeth.
Nosal said that is an example of selective use of data.
“That…is information totally taken out of context,” he explained. “It’s a clear misrepresentation of the facts.”
Nosal noted that the survey was never intended to assess the effectiveness of water fluoridation in communities. He also said the same survey showed only 20 per cent of kids from the same age group in Oakville had fluorosis between 2003-05 while 41 per cent had fluorosis in the previous survey taken between 2001-03.
“Clearly the real number would not have jumped around so much,” Nosal said.
Sprules admitted using what she termed the “most severe” statistic from the report but said: “So what? How am I misrepresenting the data? It’s (Nosal’s) own public health (department) that did the survey.”
“Let’s take the lowest (prevalence of fluorosis),” she added, noting the report showed about 17 per cent of 9- and 13-year-olds in Halton Hills had fluorosis during the survey taken 2005-07. “Should one kid in five have fluorosis?”