City council rode a wave of perceived public opinion early Tuesday morning, voting against a resolution to study fluoridating Thunder Bay’s water supply. An option to bring the matter before citizens as a plebiscite was also turned down.
“We can educate people on nutrition, proper oral care…those are the steps that I’m prepared to take first,” said Coun. Trevor Giertuga. “I personally don’t want it in my water.”
While Giertuga said calls and emails from the public were three to one against flouridation, Mayor Lynn Peterson said it was more like 10 to one. Peterson voted against the resolution due to environmental concerns and personal choice.
“My issue is 2 million pounds of (flouride) being washed through our system with only one per cent being consumed (by the public), “said Peterson. “The rest being flushed into the Great Lakes.”
Council heard deputations supporting the resolution from more than 10 public health officials from across the province. Ontario Dental Association president Dr. Ira Kirshen, Chief Dental Officer for Health Canada Dr. Peter Cooney and Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario president Dr. Frank Stechey all spoke at the meeting to convince council of the benefits of fluoridated water.
“I sit here dumbfounded that you don’t listen to the experts that you hire,” Stechey told council. “Your public health officials are telling you this (fluoridating water) is the way to go.”
Thunder Bay District Health Unit officials have been actively campaigning to get the city’s water supply fluoridated since 2007. Three officials from the health unit spoke to council regarding the safety of fluoride and the urgency in which it’s needed for the local water supply.
“The oral health of Thunder Bay’s children is poor and it’s getting worse,” said the health unit’s Cathy Farrell. “We’re well above red flag levels for tooth decay.”
City administration said the matter could still be put to a plebiscite if a petition can be signed by 10 per cent of the city’s voters; over 8600 signatures. The meeting lasted until 2:40 a.m. Council deferred other matters until Tuesday evening.