The pros and cons of putting fluoride in drinking water is an “extremely complex issue” that is best left off election ballots, says the head of the area’s health and social services division.
“If (the question) goes forward (in this fall’s municipal election), staff would have to put a great deal of resources into educating the public,” said Patti Moore, general manager of the health and social services division Norfolk and Haldimand counties share.
“That’s not the best place to put our resources . . . We are suggesting putting it to the public is not the best way for council to make a decision.”
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black wants voters in Simcoe, Delhi, and Courtland to decide during this October’s election if they want fluoride in their drinking water to remain or be removed.
Elected officials will have to decide before the end of April whether or not to allow the question on the ballot.
Public opinion across North America is divided over fluoride. Supporters say it helps prevent tooth decay in children while opponents say potential health risks outweigh any benefits.
Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver noted the decision to put fluoride in area drinking water came at a time when “fluoride toothpaste was not as available.” The issue, he said, is “something we probably do need to talk about again” and a vote “will give citizens a chance to tell us what they are thinking.”
Eric D’Hondt, Norfolk’s general manager of public works and environmental services, told Tuesday night’s council meeting fluoride is “a very hazardous material” for his staff to handle.
“It’s on our health safety agenda every time,” he said. “There are a lot of other avenues to consider for users to use fluoride.”
Moore said data collected by the health unit shows the dental health of Norfolk residents to be “extremely poor.”
Problems with tooth decay, she said, are the result of a number of “variables” other than fluoride, including eating habits. The best way to improve dental health, she said, is through “good dental habits.”
Councilors wondered if a plebiscite should be put to all Norfolk residents, including people in Waterford and Port Dover who don’t have fluoride in their water but might want it.
Courtland Coun. Roger Geysens said his position on fluoride is clear.
“If it’s truly good, why do we not bring it to other communities that don’t have it to date? I simply think we should remove fluoride from our water. We don’t need a vote.”