Fluoride now a big issue for City council

Controversy over fluoridation of Red Deer’s water supply was apparent at Monday’s City Council meeting.

It started when Councillor Buck Buchanan introduced a motion to hold a plebiscite on fluoridation of City drinking water at the same time as the next civic election in 2013. Holding a separate plebiscite before then would cost between $100,000 and $150,000, while holding it in conjunction with the election would only cost an estimated $5,000.

However, it quickly became evident some councillors hold strong views on the subject.

Councillor Paul Harris said the City should stop fluoridation immediately and hold a plebiscite later to see if people want it back. He said he’s received numerous calls and e-mails on the subject, which led him to research the issue and he feels putting fluoride in the water supply should end.

“The whole thinking around fluoride has changed. It needs to go. I’m proposing we take it out immediately, temporarily, and err on the side of caution. There are enough things that I’ve read that this is not a good thing for the public. There’s no benefit for the public here and there’s a lot of health detriments including cancer (concerns), hyperactivity, there’s a whole list of things that are a problem. We need to do more research on this. It’s a scary thing for me.”

Harris added that while there are conflicting opinions there’s a worldwide movement to removed fluoride from public water supplies and those who want fluoride can get it in other ways, through toothpaste, drops or bottled water, for example. Red Deer started fluoridating its water in 1957 after a plebiscite and it costs approximately $60,000 annually to do it.

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes termed it “an emotional issue” and said she would support a plebiscite, and raised the question of how it would affect neighbouring communities who now get their treated water from Red Deer. Councillor Tara Veer said, “We need to hear from both sides of the question, and we haven’t heard from the general public about this.”

Councillor Chris Stephan said he too has done a lot of research and says there is a lot of conflicting evidence about the benefits or dangers of fluoride, but “We want to avoid what Calgary did.”

Calgary City council recently voted to stop fluoridating its water in a close, controversial vote.

After lengthy discussion council decided to have administration prepare a report for the May 16 council meeting that would gather information on the issue, including how to engage the public, and any potential effect on the other communities that use City water.