An impassioned plea from a councillor was not enough to make regional health committee members postpone, for up to two years, the ongoing debate on whether to remove fluoride from Halton’s drinking water.
“I fear council is expected to make a judgment on evidence that only staff can understand,” said Burlington Regional Councillor John Taylor at last week’s committee meeting.
Taylor, a former chemist, said council members aren’t scientists and should therefore wait to make a decision on the issue until both Health Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) have completed reviews of the issue.
Committee members instead voted to simply defer the issue until the spring, once Health Canada opens the subject up to a public consultation on the controversial issue, at which point the Region will host its own public information workshop.
Health Canada has confirmed it will finish what it terms an update of its guideline document on optimal fluoridation levels in early 2009, at which point it will seek public consultation. However, Health Canada already finished a comprehensive review of the issue in 2007. The current process is simply to update its scientific data on what should be the maximum allowable concentration for fluoride in drinking water— if it is used at all. Health Canada has no plans to tell municipalities whether they should cease or continue the practice of putting fluoride in drinking water.
“The decision to remove or add fluoride still remains with each municipality, in collaboration with the appropriate provincial authority,” said a Health Canada spokesman.
The Province’s MOE said it won’t be finished its review until the second half of 2010— which is too long for some health committee members.
“I don’t want to see this wait for two years,” Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville had said before the meeting.
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 but council deferred the issue at its meeting November 19.
But, Milton Councillor Colin Best said last week council members didn’t realize the MOE wouldn’t finish its review until 2010 when it made its original deferral. He said they were simply looking for a couple months to read over all the statistics they have received supporting both sides of the issue.
The Health Committee’s recommendation to defer the issue until the spring will be up for approval at the next regional council meeting December 17.