City is taking right approach to making an informed decision on fluoride issue

Fluoridation – a safe, effective boon to dental health or a process with overrated benefits and possible health consequences?

The answer likely depends on which side of the debate you’re on. Both sides come armed with studies and facts to support their position, much to the bewilderment of citizens in the middle who are trying to sort out the issue.

Members of Lethbridge city council are similarly trying to sift through the information which has been presented from a variety of sources in recent months. It’s to council’s credit that the debate is taking place. Both proponents and opponents of fluoridation, including some from beyond Lethbridge, have been invited to address council meetings and present their cases. The issue has gained heightened interest in southern Alberta since Calgary city council recently voted 10-3 to discontinue treating the city’s water supply with fluoride.

The fluoride issue will return to Lethbridge city council’s agenda on Monday and Mayor Rajko Dodic said in a story in Wednesday’s Lethbridge Herald, “My guess is the fluoride debate will take a while. I expect most members of council to weigh in on it.”

Citizens have been weighing in on it, too, some by making presentations to council, others through letters to the editor.

Debate over fluoridation is nothing new in these parts. The issue was a contentious one for two decades before the city began treating the water supply with fluoride in 1974 following a plebiscite which saw 50.6 per cent of participants vote in favour. It was the city’s fifth plebiscite on fluoridation over a 17-year period.

Lethbridge isn’t the only centre discussing the use of fluoride in drinking water. Earlier this month, the Toronto Board of Health voted to accept the recommendation of the city’s medical health officer to continue fluoridation. The issue is also front and centre in Saskatoon, where a petition to remove fluoride from the city’s drinking water has been circulating. In Prince George, B.C., the Prince George Safe Water Coalition recently held a series of talks featuring Calgary-based physician and scientist James Beck, who also addressed Lethbridge city council at the end of February.

The fluoride issue remains a hot topic in Calgary, where the city’s medical officer of health is urging Alberta Environment to block the city’s attempt to stop fluoridating its water.

Lethbridge city council has its work cut out in dealing with the matter of fluoridation. But council is tackling the issue the right way by helping to foster a healthy debate, and by allowing presentations from a range of sources. The key to making an informed decision is to have as much information as possible.

That might not make the decision any easier for council, but at least they’ll be as well informed as possible.