CTV News Calgary, Alberta (08-Feb-11, 2 min. 45 sec.)
Calgary’s drinking water will soon be fluoride-free. City aldermen voted by a margin of 10 to 3 on Tuesday to eliminate fluoridation from its water supply.
The issue of whether fluoride should be added to city water had become a divisive topic within the city.
After the city’s Utilities and Environment committee voted 5-1 to exclude fluoride from Calgary’s water supply, some aldermen called for the matter to be put to a plebiscite.
But after spending much of the afternoon Tuesday in heated debate about the issue, council decided not to have a public vote on the matter.
There was a financial aspect to the decision because fluoridation cost the city upwards of $750,000 a year, and millions of dollars more were needed to update the device that injects the fluoride.
But alderman Jim Stevenson said other factors were at play.
“For many of us, it was just whether or not it was ethical to be forcing medication on 100 per cent of the population, a lot of them that don’t want it,” he told CTV’s Power Play.
They also opted not to consult with the expert panel that was offered by the University of Calgary, for free.
Alberta Health says it is disappointed by the council’s decision. It says that while some communities have drinking water with plenty of natural fluoride, Calgary’s natural fluoride level is too low to help prevent cavities.
The region’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Richard Musto, is also disappointed by the decision. He’s argued that fluoride is safe and beneficial in low amounts, and a cost-effective way to improve oral health.
But city resident Elke Babiuk, who has spent more than 20 years fighting water fluoridation, says she’s pleased.
“I think public awareness has grown significantly, especially because of the internet, social media, lots of information out there right now, freedom of choice has always been important as well,” she told CTV Calgary.
Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who voted to end fluoridation, says the science just isn’t there to justify water fluoridation.
“I think the health-science view is predicated on a certain approach which I think is no longer entirely relevant. And I encourage health scientists to come forward with a point of view that carries the full view of science but is also more relevant to the sensibilities of the day,” Carra said.
The issue now goes to Alberta Environment, which will have to amend the city’s water licence, which could take several months.
Calgary has held six plebiscites on the issue of fluoridation since 1957, finally deciding in 1989 to begin adding fluoride to the city’s water supply. It started the program two years later.
Many communities in Canada have fluoride in their water supplies, but recent years have seen a backlash by those who question the long-term effects of the compound.
Critics worry that children may now be getting too much of the compound which could lead to fluorosis, a dental condition in which a build-up of fluoride causes unsightly dark splotches on the teeth.
But Dr. Euan Swan, of The Canadian Dental Association, says fluoridation isn’t dangerous in the amounts recommended by Health Canada.
“The weight of evidence tells us, tells Health Canada, that water fluoridation is safe,” he said, and by fighting tooth decay it “provides this lifetime benefit to all members of society.”
The Alberta Dental Association also calls water fluoridation an appropriate and effective public health measure.
Other critics worry whether fluoride can impede brain development in children.
Still others are against fluoridation because they say it’s unethical to distribute a substance to the masses without their full consent, and say fluoridation infringes on their right to choose.