Cornwall council members appeared Monday to reflect the general public’s feelings on whether drinking water should contain fluoride.
In other words, all over the place.
Some councillors want it, some don’t and others remain undecided.
A pro-fluoride presentation to council that relied on the science, but also sound public policy, from local medical officer of health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, and chief dental officer of Canada, Dr. Peter Cooney, didn’t convince Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy for one.
“For me to make a balanced decision, I won’t be able to do so,” O’Shaughnessy said in winding up comments to Roumeliotis and Cooney.
Then the mayor admitted: “If there was a vote, I would vote against fluoridation in the water.” which prompted brief applause from the gallery, which was made up of those opposed to fluoride, as well as several city dentists.
He explained that despite a wealth of pro- and anti-fluoride documentation, he doesn’t feel qualified enough in this field to properly analyze it to make a decision based on science alone.
“If there are wise councillors, they make the right decision,” Cooney said, which prodded Coun. David Murphy to reply: “So I have to be a scientist?”
“If you have the right science,” answered Cooney, sparking some chuckling from the gallery.
O’Shaughnessy did, however, feel he could base a decision on the general public’s views, even though “whatever the reasons are of the public, they are not mine to know.”
Earlier, Roumeliotis and Cooney provided a two-pronged approach to show why the city should return to fluoridation, which stopped when an equipment failure occurred in summer 2013. Since then, council hasn’t felt convinced to debate whether they should spend about $300,000 for new equipment that would make the application of hydrofluorosilicic acid at the water treatment plant safe.
Roumeliotis focused his attention on reminding council they would be missing an opportunity to increase the health levels of the city’s poorest residents, whose overall health is compromised by their depressed socio-economic status.
“You’re trying to even the playing field,” said Roumeliotis, explaining that few poor people go to the dentist due to a lack of dental plans and/or limited funds.
Roumeliotis pointed out the most recent data is already indicating that Cornwall children are showing more cases of dental caries (cavities) than in area communities that provide fluoridation, such as Hawkesbury.
Earlier, Cooney explained that for every $1 spent on fluoride, $38 is saved on dental bills.
Cooney also cited that one out of three Canadians don’t have a dental insurance plan, answering a musing about coverage from Coun. Claude McIntosh.
Earlier McIntosh wondered if other ways of providing fluoride treatment should be considered, acknowledging the stance that residents should be given individual choice.
Cooney had explained that European countries utilize milk products, salt and direct intervention at the school level.
Cooney also explained that residents could install a filter in their home to avoid the consumption of fluoride.
The chief dental officer did dwell on science, but not in the detailed specifics that were provided by anti-fluoride crusader Dr. Paul Connett at council’s April 11 meeting.
He pointed to several peer reviews of findings that indicated Health Canada’s continued fluoride support.
For example, Cooney tried to debunk the claim that IQ declined due to fluoride ingestion.
He noted that IQ in Americans increased by 15 points between the 1940s and 1990s. Meanwhile, fluoridation use increased to 67 per cent from 3.3 per cent from 1951 to 2012.
“IQ is keeping pace.”
Cooney also tried to calm fears of fluoride’s toxicity.
For an acute reaction, “you would need to drink 15,000 litres of (fluoride-added) water at one seating.”
For chronic symptoms of fluoride poisoning, he said “you would need to drink 15 litres of water everyday for 10 years.
“That should give you a level of comfort of what’s in the water.”