March 21, 2019

Archives for April 17, 2012

Fluoride discussion takes a bite out of City Hall

COF-COF News Find 300 x 300By: Emma Reilly,, Hamilton, Ontario 17-Apr-2012 – One side says it’s safe, effective and affordable.

The other argues it’s a dangerous form of mass medication.

And both sides are equally convinced their argument has teeth.

The great debate about fluoride played out for hours at City Hall on Monday as councillors received an annual report about water fluoridation.

Even though councillors weren’t at the decision stage, Monday’s meeting was rowdy, raucous and drew a crowd of a size City Hall hasn’t seen since the days of the Pan Am stadium debate.

While the delegates were divided about fluoride, they were united by their fervency. Whether they argued fluoride was one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century or that fluoride causes cancer, bone decay and a host of other diseases, each side argued their case with equal tenacity.

Heading up the pro-fluoride camp were Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s medical officer of health, Dr. Peter Cooney, chief dental officer with Health Canada, and Dr. Ron Yarascavitch, a representative of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.

King argued that fluoridation has been studied extensively over the past 60 years and scientific evidence has shown it to be safe and effective.

“I want to assure you and support your medical officers of health in saying that water fluoridation is safe, highly effective and most importantly, reaches the entire population,” she said.

However, King faced some pointed questions from Councillor Terry Whitehead about her background and areas of expertise.

Whitehead — who has an autistic son — suggested there was a link between autism and fluoride and asked King if she was an expert on that disorder. That prompted Mayor Bob Bratina to spring to King’s defence.

“I know that there’s no intention of trying to embarrass anybody by suggesting they’re not an expert,” Bratina said.

The anti-fluoride representatives at the meeting — including academics, chemists, politicians, former Green Party candidate Peter Ormond and former water distribution managers — made up the majority of delegates at Monday’s meeting. This group clapped after every anti-fluoride presentation, called out during the meeting and gathered in the lobby outside council chambers after the meeting for a group photo.

One member of the gallery began yelling at councillors when the meeting lost quorum, accusing them of being biased and cutting off any opposition as they listened to two hours of pro-fluoridation arguments.

“If you continue, we’re just going to end the meeting right now and leave the chamber,” said Bratina, who was chairing it.

Bratina also stepped in to prevent one delegate from what he characterized as personal attacks against Dr. Chris Mackie, an associate medical officer of health.

While councillors have dealt with their annual fluoridation report, the issue isn’t set to die out anytime soon.

Councillor Brian McHattie introduced a notice of motion Monday asking for a variety of actions relating to fluoridation, including asking Health Canada to enact greater controls and for the province to provide further studies.

“It just makes me awfully nervous,” McHattie said about the potential impact of fluoridation. “I hope we’re on the right path.”