Peel Region’s fluoride debate hasn’t been fully flushed despite a decision last April to continue fluoridating our drinking water.

Councillors passed a motion yesterday urging Health Canada to classify fluoride for drinking water as a drug, and that the substance, used to prevent tooth decay, be assigned a “drug number” which, much like over-the-counter medication, lets users know the product is subject to stringent government regulations.

Regional councillors made the move following a lengthy debate and after hearing from several residents opposed to water fluoridation.

“We should not be afraid to ask questions and to challenge Health Canada (about fluoridation),” said Mississauga Ward 2 Councillor Pat Mullin. “If there is even one doubt, then we should be looking into this.”

In April, Peel Council voted to continue with fluoridation, but asked staff to looked into the possibility of reducing the amount of fluoride in Peel’s drinking water from 0.7 milligrams per litre to 0.2, the minimum amount recommended by the province and federal government.

Yesterday, Peel Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Mowatt recommended in a report that the Region stick with current fluoride levels because they are optimal in preventing tooth decay.

In compiling the report presented yesterday, staff drew largely on comprehensive reviews Health Canada did between 2007 and 2010, which reaffirmed the agency’s guideline of 0.7 milligrams per litre of fluoride concentration in the drinking water supply.

However, the roughly 30 people who showed up at Regional Council yesterday shot down the recommendations presented to council and urged politicians to do their own homework on the issue.

Council heard from six people who urged them to reconsider its position on fluoridation.
One by one, speakers drew on reports, studies and personal anecdotes to argue there is much evidence to suggest that fluoridation is bad for your health.

They asked politicians to provide residents with proof that fluoride is safe, that levels in the water supply are regulated and that the substance poses no real adverse health affects on humans.

“We are asking you, our elected representatives, to do your due diligence, to provide us with the evidence,” said Mississauga resident Liesa Cianchino. “All we’re asking is for proof (that fluoridation is safe).”

Stopping short of revisiting the question on fluoridation in Peel, which would require two-thirds majority vote, politicians opted to take the issue to a higher level.

The motion passed yesterday calls on Ottawa to regulate fluoride used as a treatment for dental cavities in drinking water as a drug under Natural Health Product Regulations.
It also urges that all chemicals added to drinking water for the purpose of treating dental decay undergo new drug applications and be assigned a drug number by Health Canada.

Councillors essentially agreed with delegates that, although it is dispensed as a drug in the water, fluoride isn’t approved as one.

A drug number permits a manufacturer to market products in Canada. The number serves as a tool to help in the follow-up of products on the market, recall of products, inspections, and quality monitoring.