A group of citizens who support adding fluoride to Calgary’s drinking water are urging voters to elect candidates who will work to reinstate fluoridation.
Scroll down to read responses from three of the mayoral candidates
Members of the pro-fluoridation group Calgarians for Kids’ Health are gathering in the city’s northwest on Monday to discuss the topic.
LISTEN: Family dentist joins chorus of voices calling on Calgarians to vote for pro-fluoride candidates
The group is comprised of dental and pediatric specialists, parents and grandparents, all of whom want community water fluoridation reinstated to help prevent dental decay.
“The absence of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water since 2011 has become completely apparent in my practice,” Calgary orthodontist Dr. Leagh Harfield said in a Monday news release. “I see a dramatic increase in decalcified and damaged teeth.”
“It’s as if their teeth are melting away right in front of my eyes.”
Calgary mother Carmen Davison said she was alarmed when her second child required many baby teeth to be filled and capped.
“My first child is a lot older than our daughter,” she said. “He had fluoridation and his teeth are fine.”
“I was shocked when the dentist told me that our two-year-old had to be anaesthetized.” She added. “No mother should have to see her child waking up from that, with blood coming out of the mouth, crying and in pain.”
Meanwhile, Denise Kokaram from The Alex Dental Health Bus said approximately 50 per cent of the low-income children and youth they see have cavities that need to be addressed.
“In the past four years, we have seen dental disease increasing within individuals, meaning the number of decayed teeth per person seems to be rising,” she said.
“We are seeing seven-year-old children with severe dental disease, some with almost every tooth in their mouth decayed.”
Calgarians head to the polls on Oct. 16, 2017.
Calgary mayoral candidates weigh in
“Mayor Nenshi has always supported fluoridation and voted against removing fluoride from Calgary’s water,” Nenshi’s campaign spokesperson Alex Middleton said.
FULL COVERAGE: 2017 Calgary election
Smith said studies appear to suggest a correlation between removing fluoride and increased rates of tooth decay in children.
“I would be willing to at least listen to expert opinion on the issue,” Smith said. “I realize this a political hot potato, a very divisive issue, but that shouldn’t detract council from making tough, fact-based decisions.”
Chabot suggested the dental association “get together” with Health Canada.
“Because Health Canada says children under three should not be ingesting fluoride,” Chabot said. “Let’s at least work off the same page here: one body says, ‘Don’t feed it to children under three.’ The dental association says, ‘Absolutely feed it to kids under three.’ Those people who can’t afford to get fluoride out of their water are the ones who are going to be impacted, especially the children under three years of age.”
Global News fact-checked Chabot’s statement and found Health Canada’s website states it supports community water fluoridation as an “effective way to prevent tooth decay” for people of all ages.
“It is universally accessible and provides benefits to all members of a community, regardless of their age,” reads the federal agency’s website. “Community water fluoridation has been proven to be a safe, effective and equitable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay (including root decay) for people of all ages – from children to seniors.”
Calgary’s history of fluoridation
Calgary councillors have a long history of debating fluoridation.
According to the City of Calgary’s website, Calgarians voted against adding fluoride to drinking water three times in 1957, 1961 and 1971.
Fluoridation was then approved by plebiscite in 1989, and added by 1991.
Fluoridation was approved again in a second plebiscite in 1999.
Fluoridation was then discontinued in 2011.
In 2016, city council rejected a motion to revisit the debate.
Fluoride naturally occurs in the Bow and Elbow Rivers in concentrations between 0.1 and 0.4 mg/L, according to the City of Calgary.
With files from Global’s Heather Yourex-West