City council greenlights continued use of fluoride

  • Oct. 31, 2012 2:56 p.m.

City council has opted to continue the addition of fluoride in the local water supply at current levels.

Council had several options with which to proceed at this week’s meeting – hold a plebiscite on fluoride use prior to next year’s municipal election, hold a plebiscite in tandem with next year’s election or make a decision Monday evening.

They chose to make a clear-cut decision Monday, with Councillors Chris Stephan and Tara Veer opposed. Both Stephan and Veer felt the issue should have gone to a plebiscite.

Ultimately, Mayor Morris Flewwelling, and Councillors Dianne Wyntjes, Buck Buchanan, Frank Wong, Cindy Jefferies and Lynne Mulder supported maintaining the status quo with fluoride. Councillor Paul Harris was absent. The City adds fluoride to its water supply in a concentration of less than 0.7 mg/L per the guidelines set out by Health Canada.

There was also plenty of public input over the issue; residents had several chances to sound off through a presentation in September, online forums, messages directed to council and other opportunities over the past several months.

“The public process for me has raised enough doubt in my mind not so much on fluoride in and of itself, but on the necessity of adding additional fluoride to the municipal water supply over and above natural fluoride,” said Veer.

Stephan said he personally didn’t have any issues with having fluoride in the water.

He pointed out that it’s much more costly for those who wish to avoid fluoride to do so rather than for those who wish to utilize fluoride. “Topical application of fluoride through toothpaste, for example, is extremely inexpensive,” he said. “I think the alternatives for leaving fluoride in put a much more serious burden on the people who want fluoride out than if we were to take fluoride out.”

Jefferies said that she, like many of the other councillors, has had various opinions on the issue of fluoridated water during the course of exploring it.

“Over the weekend, I read just about everything I have photocopies of on fluoride and over the course of the past year, I’ve spoken to many people,” she said. “I started to re-read some of the opinions expressed by the authorities and professional associations that have already been listed off – those with a lot of knowledge and expertise on both sides of the equation.

“If there is a chance that we can make a difference with fluoride, I think that it’s worth taking that chance.” She also pointed out that regional water customers beyond Red Deer have also subscribed to water they know is fluoridated.

“I don’t think this decision would change too much from their perspective.”

Flewwelling said he was pleased the issue was settled Monday night. Although he acknowledged it’s certainly not an issue that won’t resurface down the road.

“I just want to say I’m extremely pleased council chose to take a stand,” he said. “I was afraid council was going to – in my words – ‘weasel’ and go with a plebiscite. A plebiscite provides a vote but council has to ultimately take that and make a decision.

“One of the easy things I think for politicians to do sometimes is to duck the issue by saying ‘We’ll let the people decide’. Of course, the people can’t decide because they aren’t in charge of making the decision. My great fear with many of the fluoride plebiscites is that they are practically 50-50. And even so, the plebiscites aren’t binding on council.”

A plebiscite held prior to next year’s election would also have cost about $100,000. One held along with the election would cost only $5,000. Even though it’s inexpensive, it leave the issue with a new council to deal with, he said.

“The easiest thing to do is to take that plebiscite at an election and dump the whole thing onto the next council. I think it’s important that we make the decision tonight.”