Both Riverview and Dieppe councils voted last night in favour of continuing to add fluoride to Metro Moncton’s municipal water supply.
“The Canadian Public Health (Association) and others have said that it’s something positive to be kept, our opinion is that it should be kept,” Dieppe Mayor Jean LeBlanc said after a vote was held last night at the city’s regular council meeting.
The City of Moncton supplies drinking water not only to its own residents, but also to residents of Riverview and Dieppe.
Over the last year or so, Moncton council has been examining the issue of whether or not to continue adding fluoride to the municipal drinking water supply.
The contentious issue has been debated in municipalities across North America in recent years, with some opting to stop adding fluoride to drinking water. Opponents say adding fluoride to drinking water can cause a myriad of health problems while those who favour adding fluoride argue that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest it causes any problems. Proponents also say fluoride in drinking water helps combat dental disease.
Moncton council asked residents for its thoughts in the summer, hosting a lively public meeting on the subject in June.
It has also asked its two biggest customers in Riverview and Dieppe for their own opinions.
Last night, prior to voting, Riverview council heard presentations both for and against water fluoridation.
Olivier Weil, a member of Fluoride Free Metro Moncton, came to council armed with two large binders filled with information pulled from various studies that he says clearly shows why municipalities should stop adding fluoride to water supplies.
He cited various researchers, some of whom used to support water fluoridation and are now opposed to it.
Weil said even trace amounts of fluoride can cause thyroid problems and various other health issues when ingested over long periods of time. In the past, opponents of water fluoridation have also suggested it can also cause cancer and lead to brittle bones.
Weil noted that 228 North American cities have ceased water fluoridation practices in recent years. Calgary chose to stop adding fluoride to its water supply earlier this year, after a decade of debate.
While organizations such as Health Canada, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, dental societies and others support water fluoridation, Weil feels they aren’t considering all of the research on the issue. He asked that Riverview council take time to study the issue before making a decision.
Dr. Yves Leger, a medical officer with the provincial Department of Health, then spoke in favour of water fluoridation. He pointed out that fluoride has been added to drinking water in North American for more than 60 years.
While he noted that high doses of fluoride can be toxic, Leger said that there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that the small amount of fluoride put in drinking water (0.7 milligrams per litre, as per Health Canada’s recommendations) can cause health problems.
Leger said adding fluoride to water is a cost-effective way of cutting down on dental disease. He said $11 billion is spent each year in Canada treating dental disease, and that studies have shown that adding fluoride to municipal water has cut down on dental disease cases.
He said it’s especially important for low-income families who can’t afford costly dental work but get a dose of fluoride through their water supply.
Riverview Councillor-at-large Martha Shaw-Murphy asked Leger why it is recommended that people not swallow toothpaste, but it’s OK to swallow municipal water, when both contain fluoride. Leger said toothpaste has a fair amount of fluoride in it, and then Shaw-Murphy pointed out that Canadians are told they should drink six to eight glasses of water a day. The doctor pointed out that Health Canada assumes people do ingest a small amount of fluoride each day, but that they aren’t ingesting entire bottles of toothpaste or other high source of fluoride.
Shaw-Murphy, who along with Deputy Mayor Don Lenehan voted against council recommending that Moncton should continue to add fluoride to its water, asked the doctor, “Should I have the choice to have fluoride in my water?”
Leger said council needs to consider the best interest of its citizens.
Ward One Coun. Claude Curwin said that Weil presented an interesting argument and made some good points, but added that he ultimately feels that there isn’t enough concrete evidence to prove fluoride in drinking water is a serious health concern.
After council voted 4-2 in favour of water fluoridation (Coun. Wayne Bennett was absent from the meeting), Weil said he wasn’t surprised, but he still has hope for the future.
“If you look at the cities across North America that have ceased fluoridation, it usually takes a few rounds before the decision-makers actually do the research,” he said. “Luckily, Moncton (is) doing research and Moncton council are the ones who will decide.”
Both Riverview and Dieppe councils will have letters sent to the City of Moncton with their recommendations. But as Dieppe’s mayor reiterated, Moncton has the final say.
“We’re only a purchaser of the product,” LeBlanc said.
Moncton has been adding fluoride to its water since about 1967. It costs about $100,000 per year, or about $1 per year for each person the water system serves.
* With files from Shannon MacLeod