The online Leger survey conducted among 502 Calgarians from Oct. 8 to 11 shows 54 per cent of respondents favour returning the additive to Calgary’s drinking water, compared with 32 per cent against it and 14 per cent saying they don’t know.
It has a margin of error of 4.4 per cent 19 times out of 20.
It’s the latest in a series of polls done since the summer showing the pro-fluoridation side winning the public opinion war to be decided in a plebiscite on Monday.
A survey conducted last month by ThinkHQ was even more emphatic, finding 76 per cent of decided voters supported fluoridation versus 24 per cent opposed, and a Leger poll in July had the yes side on top by 58 per cent to 26 per cent.
A fluoride advocate said she’s not surprised by those polling results.
“They had 20 years of experience with fluoridation, then a decade of decay without fluoridation — they’re better informed,” said Dr. Juliet Guichon, general manager of the Fluoride Yes! campaign.
“It’s been a relief, it’s been a long haul that we started in 2017 when it wasn’t an issue among elected officials.”
But she noted city council voted to withdraw the additive from the water supply in 2011 following two plebiscites, the last one in 1998, which both resulted in pro-fluoridation wins.
The upcoming plebiscite is non-binding.
“The city should make changes to bylaws that make it harder to overturn plebiscites, like requiring a supermajority,” said Guichon.
And she said campaigns such as those contesting fluoride should be forced to disclose the sums of their donations and where they came from, adding her group has received about $42,000 in funding from local sources.
She pointed to her anti-fluoride opponents, the group Safe Water Calgary, who’ve said they recently mailed out 410,000 brochures to city homes but won’t disclose their funding details.
“We couldn’t afford to do 410,000 pamphlets,” said Guichon.
The latest polls show a narrowing gap in voters’ fluoridation intentions, said Dr. Bob Dickson, the director of Safe Water Calgary, who said the brochures and stepped-up social media and lawn sign efforts are having an effect.
“We’re protecting the health of Calgarians . . . we’ve got momentum,” said Dickson.
He noted that since his group hasn’t registered as a third-party advertiser, they’re not bound to disclose their funding sources and have chosen to protect donors who could come under “vicious” attack from foes.
“The vast majority of our donors are from Calgary,” said Dickson, adding U.S.-based allies Fluoride Action Network has been a minor source of funds and has provided social media assistance.
More importantly, he said, is a slew of recent studies showing the dangers fluoride additives pose to the human brain and unborn children that are giving some voters pause.
“If they see this research, people who know nothing or minimally on fluoridation will know this is not the way to go,” said Dickson.
Guichon said that research is considered flawed by credible public health scientists but has proven effective in misleading large portions of the population.
“There is no debate in the science,” she said, adding her opponents share much in common with anti-vaccine activists.
The country’s foremost medical and dental associations and agencies consider fluoridation an effective way to maintain dental health, particularly among young children.
Among them is Alberta Health Services, which says research has indicated the absence of fluoride in Calgary’s water since 2011 led to higher cavity rates in baby teeth compared to figures in Edmonton, which has retained the additive.
“This study also found that the magnitude of increase in the number of cavities was greater in Calgary than in Edmonton, despite the indication of better access to dental treatment in Calgary,” states AHS in an op-ed it released ahead of the plebiscite.
Dickson scoffed at the findings, calling them misleading and rendered moot by recent studies calling into question fluoridation’s safety.
And he said even if his side loses in next week’s plebiscite, the issue won’t be settled — particularly with a city council boasting many new faces.
“We’ll still be educating the new council on its toxicity,” said Dickson.
City officials say the return of fluoride would cost $30.1 million over two decades, but the cost wouldn’t drive up water utility rates.