Dr. Larry Levin on fluoridation in public water 1:23

The fluoridation of Hamilton’s drinking water is a polarizing topic, and at least one city councillor wants to put the issue to referendum next fall.

Coun. Brad Clark plans to introduce a motion this month asking for a referendum during next year’s election. The referendum would ask Hamiltonians if they are in favour of the continuing fluoridation of the city’s public water supply.

“Water is an inherent human right,” said Clark, who represents Ward 9 in Stoney Creek. "If people believe that one of the chemicals in the water is causing potential risk to their family, and they’re not drinking their water as a result of that, then they should have a right to hold a vote to say yes or no to it."

There have been two referendums on the issue since the 1960s, both indicating public support, Clark said in a media release Thursday. Fluoridation costs each Hamilton resident less than $3 per year.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says that fluoride combats tooth decay, and especially helps people with low incomes. But other municipalities have debated its safety and usefulness.

The city’s board of health debated it again last May, asking Health Canada for proof that fluoridated water is safe. It also asked Ontario for proof of toxicology studies on the fluoride used in Hamilton water.

Neither of those reports have materialized, Coun. Brian McHattie said. In fact, they didn’t write back at all.

“We got no response,” said the Ward 1 councillor, who supports Clark’s motion.

“There’s more coming out all the time against fluoridation,” he said. “I think this is something we need to put out to the people.”

Clark said residents should make their own decision.

“It’s their water,” he said. “If residents don’t want it, they shouldn’t be forced to have fluoride in their water.”

In Hamilton, city tap water has been treated with fluoride since 1966, but it's a contentious issue for some. In 2012, there was a push from activists for the city to stop fluoridating water over concerns it was unsafe.

Larry Levin, a dentist who practices in Hamilton and a former president of the Ontario Dental Association, told CBC Hamilton drinking fluoridated water, like Hamilton city tap water, is one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay in children. He says parents always need to make sure their children are brushing their teeth regularly with fluoridated toothpaste and avoiding sticky, sugary treats, but if they're not getting the added benefit of drinking fluoridated water, they have to be extra-careful.

Clark will present a notice of motion at the general issues committee meeting on Nov. 6, which means he'll likely bring his formal motion to following general issues committee meeting on Nov. 20.

The municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2014.