SOUTH MUSKOKA — Now more than ever, Canadians are becoming aware of how certain chemicals and pollutants can harm not only the environment but also our health. Many of us are becoming more discerning about the products we use and the foods we consume.

So it’s no surprise that some of us have begun to question the health effects of adding fluoride to the public water supply. In Muskoka, the debate started several weeks ago when a concerned citizen approached district council, asking that the issue be examined. Since that time, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has vigorously defended the practice, calling it an important way to improve the public’s dental health.

Last week, district councillors decided to take the health unit’s advice and continue fluoridating the water.

But don’t look for this issue to disappear anytime soon.

There are a growing number of people who believe more investigation is needed into the safety of water fluoridation. The cities of Calgary and Waterloo, for example, recently decided to stop adding the chemical to the public water supply, following concerns about its health effects.

While the practice has been endorsed by many government agencies including Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, questions remain about its overall effectiveness in preventing tooth decay.

A Statistics Canada report recently showed no significant improvement in the dental health of Ontario children who drink fluoridated water, versus those living in Quebec, who do not.

There are also ethical questions to be considered. Many people may not even realize they are consuming fluoridated water; some would like a choice in the matter.

District staff and councillors likely want to see a quick end to this debate. The possibility of cancer-causing chemicals in the public water supply can be an uncomfortable discussion for politicians.

It’s easier to abruptly end the conversation, or brand water fluoridation opponents as wacky environmentalists with bunk science downloaded off the Internet.

But their arguments are serious and shouldn’t be dismissed by municipal governments without further investigation.

Given the recent resurgence of questions, we believe it’s time for Health Canada to delve deeper into this issue.