[Note: The Parry Sound Council voted to end fluoridation at their January 26, 2016 meeting]

PARRY SOUND – With the fluoride debate potentially coming to a close, the health unit’s medical officer of health is appealing to the public to carefully consider the impact of its removal.

In a letter dated Jan. 7, Dr. Jim Chirico, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit’s medical officer of heath and executive officer said the critical decision Parry Sound and McDougall residents are being asked to make must be an informed one.

“That isn’t always as easy at it sounds, especially with so much information available on the internet and on such a complex topic,” Chirico wrote. “It is sometimes difficult to know if what you are reading is reliable or even truthful. That is why it is so important to rely on the recommendations of those experts skilled in deciding if the science can be trusted.”

Chirico went on to say he fully supports the addition of fluoride into municipal drinking water.

“I am not alone in this recommendation. After studying both positive and negative reports, over 90 public health, dental, medical and scientific organizations, locally, provincially, nationally and internationally recommend fluoridation as a safe and effective method to prevent cavities.”

The letter was sent out in response to the group Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management’s petition for referendum to stop the fluoridation of Parry Sound and McDougall Township water.

While the group has received 90 per cent support from those Parry Sounders polled, at the same time, McDougall residents who purchase water from the town voiced their own opinion through a survey sent out by the township.

The first report of McDougall’s survey said of the responses, 87 ratepayers do not want the chemical added, while the remaining 13 want to keep the water fluoridated.

The township has been buying drinking water from Parry Sound since 2007.

A total of 349 surveys were sent out to McDougall ratepayers and commercial establishments. Ratepayers have until February 20 to complete the survey.

If 10 per cent support is received against adding fluoride, a referendum could be called at a cost of $19,000 plus staff time to the town and about $15,000 to $16,000 to McDougall – much less than the cost associated with keeping the water fluoridated.

In June 2015 town council agreed to continue adding fluoride to its water and shortly thereafter approved a necessary $250,000 upgrade to the water treatment plan to dispense the chemical as well as another $4,500 to $5,000 annually.

“It may seem expensive to upgrade the water system, but the money the community spends for fluoride in the water is saved when the community doesn’t have to pay for their most vulnerable people to receive dental treatment,” wrote Chirico. “Some estimates say we save as much as $38 in dental treatment for every $1 we spend fluoridating the drinking water.”

In an email Monday morning Chirico said the intention of his letter was to ensure residents are informed of the benefits and importance of keeping the water fluoridated.

“As well, we know that a group was asking residents to sign a petition to remove fluoride from the water. We want to be sure residents are fully informed with the facts about fluoride and the importance of fluoride in the water supply…removing fluoride from the water supply will affect the most vulnerable in our community. This includes our children, the elderly, people who cannot afford regular dental care and those with health issues that prevent them from accessing treatment.”

Tuesday night, after press deadline, Parry Sound was set to discuss the issue, as Coun. Paul Borneman brought it back to the table.

“(Chirico’s) deputations were refuted by a world-renowned local expert in the field,” said Joe Moloney with Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management Monday.  “He is only speaking for the ministry and he has to and we understand that. The public sees that it’s a bureaucracy and bureaucracies move slowly. They’re resorting to letters of intimidation and arrogance. There seems to be more extra effort put into (fluoridation) and I’m wondering why?”