The fluoridation of water in Lake Cowichan’s water supply should not continue, Town of Lake Cowichan councillor Tim McGonigle told council during their Tuesday, October 5 meeting.

“Some say it’s more poisonous than arsenic and can has a negative impact on learning abilities in young children,” he said. “Although fluoride in the 50s and 60s was a good deterrent for tooth decay, do we not have better methods today?”

With Fort Saint John recently taking the injection of fluoride out of their water treatment process, only a few communities in the province continue to follow this practice.

The Town of Lake Cowichan is the only community on Vancouver Island that still injects fluoride into its drinking water.

When asked whether or not the citizens of Lake Cowichan need their water to be fluoridated, superintendent of public works and engineering services Nagi Rizk said, “VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority) will never give you a straight answer to that.”

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s public works department performs daily water samples, with a once-per month compounded sample tested in a certified laboratory for optimal fluoride content.

“It’s definitely adding to our costs,” Rizk said, adding that as a WHMIS chemical, special procedures must be undertaken when handling the fluoride.

After some hesitation, Rizk said, “I want to see it gone from our operations.”

The Town of Lake Cowichan has tabled the issue until their December Public Works meeting, in order to gain some public input on this issue. This issue will be one of the main topics of discussion during the Town of Lake Cowichan’s November 22 public meeting at Centennial Hall, which will begin at 7 p.m.

“The Town of Lake Cowichan should be commended for providing opportunities for public debate and discussion,” Burnaby-based Health Action Network Society president Jane Shaak wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette. “Let’s hope that individuals turn up, are informed and open to learn more about fluoride’s hazards. Being the only community on Vancouver Island that ingests fluoride seems an important reason to re-look at this procedure.”

The issue of fluoridating the Town of Lake Cowichan’s drinking water was last brought up in town last May, when the Gazette ran an article wherein Shaak suggested that injecting fluoride in the town’s water supply should end in Lake Cowichan.

“For whatever reason (fluoridation) was done in the past, but this has to change,” Shaak said.

By adding fluoride to the water supply the town is forcing a medication upon the public. “Why are municipalities medicating people? They’re making these arbitrary decisions based on information of the past.”

In response to last May’s article on fluoridation, local dentists Ken Welch and John Wilson sent a letter to the editor endorsing fluoridation.

“The use of fluoride for the prevention of dental caries is endorsed by over 90 national and international professional health organizations, including the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Food & Drug Administration of the US and the World Health Organization,” their letter read.

The dentists went on to write that fluoridation saves the people of Lake Cowichan quite a bit of money in dental costs, in the prevention of dental caries.

The fluoridation of the local water supply initially came up in council meetings in 2002, when the council of the time approved of putting the fluoridation issue to a public vote. Before this happened, submissions made by the Central Vancouver Island Health Region endorsing fluoridation came forward, and approval for the vote was withdrawn.

The fluoridation of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s drinking water costs taxpayers more than $10,000 per year, in addition to costly repair costs for the equipment.