Drinking water in Tottenham has been flouridated since 1973 and is currently the only community in Simcoe County with the chemical additive. Voters in Alliston rejected fluoride treatment in a ballot question in 1976.
Ward 5 councillor Jim Stone has made ridding Tottenham water of fluoride one of his major stalking horses since first being elected to New Tecumseth council in 1996.
On March 30, with the mayor absent from the meeting for other municipal duties, and deputy mayor Rick Milne as chair, councillors voted with Mr. Stone to commence the process to end adding fluoride to water treatment in Tottenham.
The Tottenham ward councillor, a student of alternative medicines and natural remedies, referred to fluoride and its reputed charms for preventing tooth decay as “one of the greatest con jobs of the 20th Century” while lamenting that “you couldn’t put this stuff into a dump legally in Canada.”
Fluoride is added to water for “reducing dental decay.”
That seemingly simple vote and action, has set off alarm bells within the dental industry and health units imploring New Tecumseth to reverse the decision. In fact, there are no fewer than seven delegations expected to address council tonight, including the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit which wants all water systems to flouridate drinking water.
A new wrinkle for council comes from the legal side, where Town solicitor Jay Feehely has amended his earlier opinion about the process, which left out reference to the Fluoridation Act, which provides for a ballot question prior to passing a bylaw to discontinue. The results are binding.
The Tottenham fluoridation system is a single source providing treatment for approximately 3,800 cubic meters of water per day. If fluoridation was to expand to include Alliston and Beeton, as the health unit would recommend, there would be significant cost implications as the treatment capacity would have to top 28,000 cubic meters of water per day.
“The scientific evidence demonstrates that all of the available fluoride delivery options, community fluoridation is preferred,” according to health unit briefs. “It is the most equitable method reaching rich and poor; recent immigrants; long-time residents; and advantaged and disadvantaged equally. It is the most efficient method, in terms of overall costs and population compliance.”
There is every indication to believe that councillors tonight will in fact reverse course and either keep the status quo and or put the matter to a ballot question during the next municipal election in November 2010 for Tottenham water customers.
Among the groups lobbying in favour of fluoride ar the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry, Muskoka-Simcoe Dental Society, whose president is Tottenham dentist Dr. Gerry Ross, the Ontario Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Health Canada, and Royal Victoria Hospital.