The often contentious debate over putting fluoride back in Calgary’s drinking water was once again before city council on Tuesday.
Council reviewed the requested new report from the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health on all evidence — both pro and con — on water fluoridation, while also inviting the public to speak at city hall.
The fluoride debate in Calgary is anything but watered down even after years of review. Several people from both sides raised their voices Tuesday, questioning each other’s viewpoints and facts outside council chambers as the media interviewed them on the issue.
Fluoridation critic Dr. Paul Connett and Juliet Guichon, president of Calgarians for Kid’s Health, were in a visibly heated debate about the topic. Connett is against fluoridation, while Guichon supports it.
“I’m not playing politics, I’m a scientist and I’ve been a scientist for 23 years on this issue,” Connett said. “Fluoride toothpaste works topically. The fluoridated toothpaste works because the benefit is topical. You can brush it on your teeth and spit it out.”
WATCH: Controversial study renews debate over Fluoride
“City council has it within their power to undo what it did — to reinstate fluoridation,” Guichon said. “Many children are suffering. They’re suffering pain, some of it unrecognized by their parents. And their parents in the midst of the misery, parents have to find funding that they may not have to care for their team.”
Several members of council, including Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley, support fluoridation in Calgary’s water but there’s uncertainty if there’s even any money to make it happen again, without provincial support.
“This is a question of budget because remember that the city would be on the hook for the cost even though the financial benefits would be to the province. I’ve always really struggled with the jurisdictional component of this,” Woolley said.
The benefits of water fluoridation for children listed in the O’Brien report include 50 per cent fewer surgeries for tooth decay and a 35 per cent reduction in cavities and decay.
On the negative side, the report states officials found evidence that water fluoridation causes fluorosis — a cosmetic condition affecting teeth — and impacts thyroid function.
Scientific director for the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, Dr. Bill Ghali, said there is a place for polarized passionate advocacy when it comes to the hot button topic of water fluoridation.
City council is expected to continue grinding their teeth on the fluoride issue for a while until they take a closer look at the budget and talk more with the province and Alberta Health.