Calgary’s elected officials shut the door on receiving more information from researchers about water fluoridation late Tuesday evening.
A pitch by three councillors concerning fluoride failed at 10 p.m. Tuesday in a 9-5 vote, with only councillors Gian-Carlo Carra, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Peter Demong, Richard Pootmans and Mayor Naheed Nenshi supporting the notice of motion.
After a recent study comparing the teeth of children in Calgary and Edmonton found rates of childhood tooth decay increased faster in Calgary, councillors Demong, Colley-Urquhart and Pootmans asked council, via Tuesday’s notice of motion, to engage the researchers behind the study.
Released in February, the University of Calgary study, jointly conducted with researchers from the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, examined the teeth of 5,000 kids in Calgary and Edmonton, where fluoride remains in the water. [Note: this study was fatally flawed with key data omitted. See FAN’s critique]
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, a registered nurse by trade, told council the notice of motion wasn’t about fluoridating water, rather it was about gathering more information from a non-advocacy think-tank.
“As an elected official, when new information comes forward, I think we have a duty of care and an obligation to what those findings and what those recommendations might be,” she said.
Coun. Peter Demong defended the request for more information as reasonable.
“We’re simply asking to find data. Every single member of this council asks for more data on almost every report we see,” he said.
But the majority of councillors ultimately said they didn’t have the appetite to wade back into an issue that has plagued Calgary city council for nearly 60 years.
“I see this as reopening that whole debate,” said Coun. Andre Chabot.
“People are extremely passionate on both sides and there’s no compromise,” said Coun. Ward Sutherland.
But Calgary’s elected officials aren’t quite done talking about fluoride.
When council reconvenes (for the third day of Monday’s council meeting) on Wednesday at 1 p.m., they will discuss a proposal put forward by Coun. Druh Farrell during Tuesday evening’s fluoride debate.
The pitch asks the mayor to send a letter to Alberta Health Services to address the root causes of tooth decay in Alberta.
Fluoride has repeatedly been shown to be a cost-effective way to strengthen tooth enamel in communities and, at one time, fluoridation was common across much of Canada.
Concerns about potential health risks have recently prompted some municipalities, including Calgary, to stop the practice.
In February 2011, council voted 10-3 in favour of removing fluoride from the water despite there being no expert panel consultation or public vote on the controversial issue.
The mineral started flowing in the city’s water supply in 1991, two years after 53 per cent of Calgarians said yes to fluoride in a plebiscite.