Both sides of Calgary’s fluoride debate are lobbying elected officials as the issue comes up again this summer.
Members of Safe Water Calgary hosted an event on Saturday at the Central Library to share studies they say point to the harmful effects of fluoridation. They’re encouraging people to get educated about fluoride and reach out to local politicians.
“They are getting tired of it. City councillors are fluoridated out,” said Bob Dickson, the founder of Safe Water Calgary. “They’ve been dealing with this issue for decades now. It’s really difficult to get the science across. It’s very difficult for councillors who are not scientists to make that decision.”
In February, city council voted 13-2 to revisit the issue of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water. Council will review new evidence on the benefits of fluoridation gathered by the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health. The report is expected to go to council in June.
“They are not scientists and they have stacks of information both from us and from the pro-fluoride side, primarily on the morals and the ethics of it. It’s not moral. It’s not ethical to mass medicate,” Dickson said.
Juliet Guichon, president of Calgarians for Kid’s Health, said city councillors have an opportunity to help children avoid dental decay by voting to put fluoride back in drinking water. She said the onus is on elected officials to act on the information that comes out of the O’Brien Institute report.
“Its professors have dedicated considerable time in reviewing the evidence about fluoride safety and efficacy. The people who have done it are actually experts in health science. City council will be well advised to listen to them,” Guichon said.
It’s expected to cost $6 million to upgrade the water treatment plants to accommodate fluoridation, which Guichon said would be money well spent.
The New York-based founder of Fluoride Action Network told the Calgary audience on Saturday that it would be more cost effective for the city to offer free bottles of treated water instead of adding fluoride to the city’s water.
“Instead of persuading council to fluoridate everybody, persuade people to take advantage of these free bottles of fluoridated water if they want it,” said Paul Connett, chemist and acting director of Fluoride Action Network.
But public health experts say fluoridation reduces cavities in children, many of whom don’t have the option of getting fluoride from other sources.
“Some citizens will be upset because they have been misinformed about fluoride safety and efficacy,” said Guichon.
“City councillors have a decision to make. Are they going to act courageously and promote public health for all Calgarians? Or are they just going to kick it down the road?”
Calgarians have voted in five plebiscites on water fluoridation, voting to add it to drinking water in 1998. In 2011, city council moved to eliminate fluoride from the city’s drinking water. As recently as 2016, city council rejected a call for another vote.