‘It’s a popular measure with Calgary voters. The plebiscite should pass by a very healthy margin, with support three to one over opposition’
Calgarians appear poised to widely embrace returning fluoride to the city’s drinking water in a plebiscite next month, suggests a recent poll.
The ThinkHQ Public Affairs online poll conducted among 1,109 people from Sept. 13 to 16 showed 68 per cent of respondents would vote in favour of adding fluoride to the city’s tap water, while 21 per cent were opposed and 11 per cent undecided.
On a decided voter basis, the results were even more lopsided, with 76 per cent pro-fluoride and 24 per cent against it.
The question has been contested in six plebiscites in Calgary since the 1950s, with the most recent votes ending in water fluoridation’s favour.
But without a vote, city council opted to remove the substance from the city’s water supply a decade ago.
It appears that decision is about to be reversed, said ThinkHQ president Marc Henry.
“It’s a popular measure with Calgary voters. The plebiscite should pass by a very healthy margin, with support three to one over opposition,” he said.
“If it does pass by that wide a margin, perhaps Calgary voters can have some solace in knowing they may not have to deal with the issue again for a decade or two.”
The poll showed acceptance for fluoridation is stronger among those with children, the younger and better educated, and weaker among more conservative voters, though general support for it crossed demographic lines.
In a Leger poll for Postmedia in July, 58 per cent of 464 respondents said they supported returning fluoride to the city’s water supply. Sixteen per cent said they were undecided, while 26 per cent said they were not supportive.
Non-government groups on both sides of the issue have mounted concerted efforts to sway public opinion ahead of the plebiscite, which is being held in conjunction with the Oct. 18 municipal election.
The provincial government’s Alberta Health has also entered the fray, promoting the return of fluoride to the city’s water.
A University of Calgary study conducted in 2018-19 found 64.8 per cent of Grade 2 children in Calgary had at least one cavity in their baby teeth compared to 55.1 per cent of those of the same age in Edmonton, where the water is fluoridated.
Proponents of fluoridation say it points to the merits of adding the substance to water, though opponents say those results could be attributed to other factors, such as diet and dental hygiene.
A pro-fluoride activist said he’s gratified by the poll results and that they could reflect a heightened awareness of the oral health benefits of the additive.
He noted the latest poll results show a considerable increase in pro-fluoridation sentiment than during the last plebiscite on the issue in 1998, when the additive received 55 per cent support.
“I’m really happy Calgarians are open and receptive to the idea of fluoride and it’ll be a huge step forward for public health in our city,” said Kurt Wilde of the group Fluoride: Pay it Forward.
“I’m finding more and more the anti-fluoridation side is very similar to the anti-vax and anti-mask campaigns who are getting their information from non-credible sources.”
The group of University of Calgary students say they want children to enjoy the same benefits of fluoride they had when they were younger.
An anti-fluoridation group, Safe Water Calgary, said they mailed out 410,000 brochures to Calgary homes this week, urging voters to maintain the fluoride ban.
Group member Dr. Bob Dickson said he’s disappointed with the poll results but added he’s hopeful their stepped-up campaign that includes an increased social media presence will make a difference.
“Our opponents’ campaign has been up and going since last November … we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but we’ve got science and common sense on our side,” said Dickson.
Fluoride’s impact on dental health has been hugely overblown while its downside, including impacts on the brain, have been underplayed — though that’s beginning to change, he said.
City staff members say reintroducing fluoride would cost $30.1 million over a 20-year service life, but the cost wouldn’t drive up water utility rates.
The ThinkHQ poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
*Original article online at https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/return-of-water-fluoridation-popular-among-calgarians-poll