City council in Lethbridge is putting water fluoridation to a vote today as residents are equally split over the removal issue.
Ald. Bridget Mearns is bringing the fluoride resolution to council. She said half the city’s population doesn’t want the compound in their tap water and it’s not fair to make them drink it.
“I’ll absolutely be voting for it (to be removed),” said Mearns. “I’m not sure this (resolution) will pass — my colleagues are really divided amongst themselves.”
According to a Lethbridge public opinion study this winter, 48.7 per cent of residents want to keep adding fluoride to the drinking water, 42.6 per cent want to stop adding fluoride and the remaining 8.7 per cent are undecided.
Alderman Faron Ellis spearheaded the survey and said he’s still unsure which way he’ll vote.
“I’m going to listen to the rest of the debate and make a final decision there, but I’m leaning towards that we should get rid of it,” Ellis told the Herald.
He added the way Alberta Health Services reacted to Calgary’s decision to remove fluoride from water has him thinking Lethbridge doesn’t need the compound either.
Calgary aldermen voted 10-3 in February to get rid of fluoride by mid-May. Alberta Health attempted to overturn the decision, but wasn’t successful.
Ellis said this demonstrated that the provincial agency is willing to go through democratic motions as long as it wins. If it loses, it acts paternalistically — Alberta Health Services knows best.
“This gives me considerable course of thought, and as a Libertarian, I’m leaning towards choice, but I could be convinced otherwise by fellow councillors,” said Ellis.
Ald. Joe Mauro is not 100 per cent sure about his decision. The alderman said whichever way he votes, someone will be unhappy.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to each member of council doing what they think is right for their community,” Mauro said. “It’s not going to be an easy decision, that’s for sure.”
Mearns said the city has a long history grappling with fluoride in the water.
Various plebiscites over the past 50 years took the compound in and out until finally in 1974 it was added back into the system. She said Lethbridge doesn’t need the treatment because there’s good dental care options in the city.
“I feel so bad for the fellow who thinks his grandchild’s teeth are going to fall out if there’s no fluoride in the water,” said Mearns speaking about a message she recently received. “But we’re not taking her toothpaste.”