After much thinking and debate, and getting feedback from residents on their thoughts on fluoridation, Town of St. Paul council decided to continue adding fluoride to drinking water supplies.

In July, the Town of St. Paul council heard from its water treatment plant manager, Bert Pruneau, who suggested that other communities were stopping the practice of adding fluoride to their drinking water supplies and that the town should consider dropping use of fluoride, which has historically been added to water supplies in order to rebuild and strengthen tooth enamel, and protect teeth from the acid that attacks the enamel.

The town put the question to residents in an online poll, in which 75 per cent of respondents voted against the practice, questioning the wisdom of adding the toxic chemical to water supplies and the controversy surrounding the practice.

Mayor Glenn Andersen noted he had distributed a binder of information on fluoridation compiled from Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Dental Association & College, Canadian Oral Health and other sources, all of which support the practice of fluoridation as a way to prevent tooth decay.

Coun. Edna Gervais, who originally counted herself as one of the people against fluoridation, said one of the things she found interesting was the Frequently Asked Questions section of the binder, which addressed misconceptions about fluoride.

“That’s actually what changed my mind,” said Gervais, noting that she had heard Calgary had removed fluoride from its water supplies but that it had been partly motivated by “dollars and cents” with fluoridation costing that municipality millions of dollars. For the Town of St. Paul, the cost is under $8,000 to add fluoride to water, she said.

“For right now, for us, it’s such a low cost to have it in,” she said, adding when the residents of St. Paul and Elk Point are taken into account, plus other drinkers of the water, that amounts to “maybe $1 a person a day . . . That’s pretty good bang for your buck.”

During the council meeting, a couple of councilors noted they’d had feedback from their dentists to keep fluoride in the water, with Coun. Don Padlesky saying a local dentist had said they “notice a difference between rural and non-rural kids” based on their access to fluoridated water.

Local residents Abby and David Keyes have reservations about the practice of fluoridation, and forwarded an email to the Journal from Dr. Jim Beck, a professor of medical biophysics in Calgary, who has actively campaigned in Calgary against the practice of fluoridation, who states that there is no credible evidence for the effectiveness of fluoridation in the prevention of cavities.

“The evidence of association of fluoridation with adverse effects is strong,” he wrote, stating there is evidence that fluoridation is linked with lower IQ, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hypothyroidism, hip fracture, reproductive effects, among others.

Keyes also took issue with the lack of consent, noting that a doctor needs a patient’s consent before prescribing medication. “You’re letting council do to an entire town what a doctor can’t do to a single person.”

In fact, most residents voted against the practice when their input was sought, he said, adding the fact that council ignored this feedback and didn’t seek out conflicting opinions on the practice of fluoridation, both of which was “damaging to public confidence.”

“Town council, to me, didn’t get a well-rounded and in-depth inquiry into this, to my satisfaction anyway,” he said, adding his concern is also about his two young children receiving fluoride through the water.

Beck has said he would be willing to make a public presentation and to testify before town council on the matter.