The contentious issue of water fluoridation came to a boil last night at Moncton City Hall.
Mayor George LeBlanc, members of city council and more than 100 residents gathered in council chambers at city hall last night to debate whether Moncton’s water system should continue to be fluoridated.
About two-thirds of the speakers wanted the practice to stop, and had many more supporters in the crowd, literally cheering them on.
Dr. Larry Peacock, the president of the N.B. Dental Health Society, was first to speak. He has previously been a voice in the debate, having written letters to the editor of the Times & Transcript.
He’s been practising in Moncton since 1993 and fully supports the city’s water fluoridation program, which costs the city roughly $100,000 a year.
“They call it one of the top 10 health achievements of the 20th century,” he said, referring to health experts. “And there’s three key issues surrounding it.”
He explained that it’s safe, proven by Health Canada and is a great equalizer of people of all socio-economic statuses; it’s credible and health experts agree; and fluorosis, a side-effect from too much fluoride, doesn’t truly effect this province or Canada.
The chief of dentistry for the IWK Hospital in Halifax made the trip to Moncton to present on behalf of the vice-president of medicine, who in a letter to the mayor states that the hospital fully supports fluoridation. His main focus was the fact that it prevents early childhood tooth decay and gum disease.
“These two issues effect the large group of children living in poverty. A cavity filling is about a $150 per restoration and the fluoride rinse programs are also costly.”
Dr. Anil Joshi of the Moncton Dental Society echoed these comments.
“There’s a large segment of population that only seek dental care in emergency situations so this helps greatly.”
But not everyone speaking in favour of fluoridation was a professional in the dental or medical fields.
Bob Steeves, a 72-year-old resident, grew up in Moncton on a farm, where he and his family drew from a well for drinking water.
“My brothers and I never had cavities so our dentist asked us to bring a sample of our water.”
It turned out that Steeves’ well had naturally occurring fluorine, and his dentist said there was most likely more than what the city put in.
“I’m just here to give personal experience,” he said. “It’s not all about written words, especially what’s on the Internet.”
Later in the meeting, Moncton resident Angelina Lapaolo disagreed with the dental and medical societies’ positions. After her two-minute plea to council, she received a standing ovation from most in the room.
“My tax return states that I’m living under the poverty line but does this mean I automatically want fluoride in my water, for myself and my son?”
She says that automatic fluoridation denies her of her Charter rights and just seems to be a ‘band-aid’ to cover a bigger problem.
“My son and I eat organic and I make almost everything we eat but people in our society choose to eat unhealthy, sugary, acidic food that lead to tooth decay and cavities. There’s a Tim Hortons in the hospital, for example. It’s all about education.”
Also opposed to fluoridation is Francis Weil, a PhD who has taught at l’Université de Moncton for many years and was the dean of science and engineering for two consecutive terms. He used to believe in water fluoridation but after looking at many peer-reviewed research and scientific documents, he’s changed his mind.
“Peer-reviewed studies have concluded that research shows that ingestion of fluoride can be harmful to the human body. Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone triggered by fluoride.”
He maintained that while the topic is confusing to most of society, it’s important to remember that it took years for the research to come through that showed tobacco, lead, asbestos and the pesticide DDT are dangerous.
“If you are influenced by the dental society, don’t forget that teeth are only one part of the human body. There’s a way to satisfy both camps, simply do not put fluoride in the water, and those who want to ingest it daily can do so through supplements and in their toothpaste.”
A doctor committed to the removal of fluoride made a presentation via phone call as he’s at a conference in Washington.
“Most of the world does not fluoridate and the decline of tooth decay has been seen worldwide since the 1920s, whether the country fluoridates or not,” said Dr. Bill Osmunson, who is part of the Fluoride Action Network and International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology.
Coun. Kathryn Barnes congratulated everyone in attendance for showing respect to one another and for expressing what they were thinking and feeling on the issue of water fluoridation.
She said they will put together all the information given to them and will have a joint meeting of both the legal and administrative committee and sustainable environment committee in the fall to discuss everything.
The final decision on the matter will rest with Moncton city council.