By: Beatrice Fantoni (Reporter), The Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario 29-Feb-2012 — They (Windsor Utilities Commission) voted in favour of recommending to city council to stop water fluoridation for five years and redirect any funds recuperated into oral hygiene and nutrition education.
“This (fluoridation policy) has been in place for 59 years. It deserves a review – a thorough review,” said Coun. Bill Marra, who stepped down from chairing the meeting in order to second Coun. Drew Dilken’s motion at the WUC meeting on Wednesday night.
“I’m prepared to have this debate at a full council meeting,” Marra said. “Clearly we’re not in a position to make a full decision. Council is.”
Four out of the five commission members present voted in favour of the recommendation, with Coun. Ed Sleiman voting against the motion.
Residents, local dentists as well as the medical officer of health Dr. Alan Heimann made five-minute presentations to the WUC after which commission members posed clarification questions. About 40 people are at the meeting in the city’s council chambers where at times the discussion grew a bit heated as presenters on either side of the debate answered the commission’s questions.
After the vote, Dilkens, Marra and Heimann all said that many more questions were raised at the meeting than there were answers, so much more debate and research is needed on the issue of whether the city should continue to fluoridate tap water.
Heimann said it was his sense that two main questions that emerged centred on what constitutes a safe amount of fluoride in tap water (if any) and whether or not hydrofluorosilicic acid – which is used to fluoridate tap water – is indeed safe.
“There is a lot of conflicting information that we need to work through,” Heimann said. “It’s going to be my job … to assist in the provision of this information.”
Dilkens said that much like learning to wash our hands to prevent a cold, preventing tooth decay is ultimately a matter of personal hygiene that can be taught to children by their parents. It might not require fluoridating the water, especially when there is research to show that the industrial grade hydrofluorosilic acid used in tap water is derived from phosphate fertilizers rather than a natural source, he said.
“There were a lot of questions asked that I didn’t get solid answers to,” Dilkens said. “It’s worth having the discussion, gathering the information and coming to a conclusion for the benefit of the residents.”
In their presentations, local dentists as well as Heimann reiterated to the commission that fluoridation remains an effective, equitable and economical way of preventing tooth decay.
On the other side of the debate, residents, a local nurse and members of the group Fluoride Free Windsor cited research showing fluoridated water has been linked to medical conditions such as thyroid problems and kidney stones. As well, there are no protections in place for wildlife exposed to fluoridated water.
“I feel more research needs to be done to satisfy all,” said one local resident, adding that changing diets could also help reduce the problem of tooth decay, thereby doing away with the need to fluoridate water. “If fluoridation is so beneficial in 2012 why aren’t citizen organizations in Leamtington … standing up and calling (for it)?”
Kim De Yong of Fluoride Free Windsor said she was pleased that the commission upheld its mandate to provide safe water. She said the group will now work to provide the commission with the peer reviewed evidence which shows ingesting fluoride is not safe.
With the recommendation to council, it will be up to the city’s 11 councillors to debate the issue and decide whether to continue fluoridating tap water. Marra said there is no definite time line for the process. The next step will be to notify the provincial government to determine what legal process must be followed to bring the issue to city council, he said.
Marra said he expects it will take another few months to gather more research and the right legal information before the city council can start discussions on the matter.