Opposing views shared in fluoridation showdown
Those for and against the fluoridation of water in Red Deer weighed in on the controversial topic at two public events on Tuesday.
The events were the last public consultation before city council decides whether to put it to a plebiscite or make it a decision of city council.
About 50 people attended a fluoride public education session in the afternoon at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel and another 50 attended an evening session that allowed citizens to present their cases to city council.
Dr. James Beck argued against fluoridated water. He said that fluoride is ineffective in fighting cavities, unsafe and unethical. He discounted studies that said fluoride prevents cavities and is not harmful to health. Beck is a professor emeritus of medical biophysics at the University of Calgary. He is the author of The Case Against Fluoride.
“The biggest truth and the most obvious argument and one that you don’t need to be a scientist to answer is it’s unethical,” said Beck. “You are mass medicating. You are forcing people to take a medicine whether they want it or not without ever having been examined by a doctor or a dentist and without ever being asked. That’s the most obvious objection. They should stop it without question of whether it is effective or safe.”
Dr. Digby Horne, a chief medical officer of health for the Central Zone, said community water fluoridation is a safe and cost-effective method of reducing dental cavities. Horne said the cavities are an important health issue and there is no better alternative to fluoride.
“At this point several reviews have looked at potential health concerns,” said Horne. “There’s nothing definite. They are saying nothing definite at this time. There’s no negative health effects that we are aware of at this time.”
On Oct. 29 after debates in council chambers and public consultations, city council will decide whether they will reduce, increase or eliminate fluoride in Red Deer’s water supply or let the citizens decide in a plebiscite next year. A plebiscite outside of a municipal election would carry a price tag between $100,000 and $150,000.
Local dentist and fluoride proponent Jo Scalzo has practiced in Red Deer for 31 years and she says she has seen a drastic increase in the amount of tooth decay in her patients because of the consumption of pop, juices and sugary drinks.
“There’s quite a bit of dissent of having fluoride in the water,” said Scalzo. “I think they are not looking realistically at what will happen here if they take fluoride out. What will we see if there’s no fluoride if there’s no protection? It’s going to be devastating.”
City resident Coreen Evans said the taps to fluoride should be turned off until there are better studies and research showing whether fluoride is safe or harmful. Evans said removing fluoride from the water supply will allow residents to decide for themselves if they want to use fluoride.
Fluoridation of Red Deer’s public water supply was mandated by a plebiscite that was held in the 1950s. The water treatment plant is legally required to continue this practice until administration is directed by council to apply for an amendment to the province. Currently the city adds a concentration of about 0.7 milligrams per litre to the municipal water supply. Earlier this year the city reduced the amount of fluoride to 0.7 milligrams per litre from 0.8 milligrams, in keeping with the latest Health Canada recommendations.
The city supplies water to more than 145,000 customers.