PORT CARLING – Fluoride will stay in the Muskoka Lakes Township water supply.

That was the decision of township council at its Sept. 16 meeting as it struck down a recommendation from its committee of the whole to remove fluoridation from municipal water.

Council, in a recorded vote five to three, opted to keep fluoride in the water following two public presentations from experts in favour of keeping the additive.

The issue of fluoridation has been a hot topic in the region for years. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit opines that Muskoka has a lower rate of childhood cavities than non-fluoridated communities in Ontario because of fluoridation but some skeptics considered the difference insignificant.

Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for the health unit, asked council to maintain fluoride in the water. Otherwise, he said, past experience indicated members would experience increased avoidable dental decay for children and probably for adults whose primary water source is the municipal water system, and the increase will be greatest among children from families of low incomes.

“At this point I would like to remind you that your council has historically supported community water fluoridation as a safe and cost-effective way of reducing dental decay,” he said. “As your medial officer of health I would urge you to continue community water fluoridation in the communities.”

Dr. Eric Luks, a Muskoka Lakes resident and dentist, told council the health concerns such as cancer and Down’s Syndrome caused by fluoridation have been reviewed frequently by governing bodies in the dental industry and there is no evidence between the additive and the conditions.

“I urge you to oppose the removal of fluoride from the water supply from this community. It would be disastrous for future generations and for your grandchildren,” he said.

Those opposed to the additive in the water system claim that half of Muskoka’s residents use wells rather than municipal water and there is no data that examines the difference in tooth decay rates between the two groups.

Coun. Terry Ledger was the most vocal in her support of the committee’s recommendation made last month, saying she believed everyone had a right to choose what anyone puts in his or her bodies.

“It is an additive, it is not required,” she said occasionally glancing at Gardiner who was still at the podium. “It is cheap and easy to put it in your water yourself if you want … I just don’t think (fluoridation) is fair and necessary. At the end of day, if fluoride in the water affects one person adversely, just one, or if one person has to deal with it, just one, it fails.”

Others, like Coun. Phil Harding, said he would rely on the professionals’ opinion in deciding how he would vote.

“I am going to look to the experts to our medial officer of health … I am going to look to those who in the know, in the community who deal with teeth every day, like Dr. Luks,” he said. “My vote will be to remain with fluoridated water.”

Mayor Don Furniss and councillors Allen Edwards, Gault McTaggart Jean-Ann Baranik and Harding voted against the committee’s recommendation, which would have removed fluoride. Councillors Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa, Donelda Kruckel and Ledger voted in favour of adopting the committee’s recommendation.