Fluoride will not be added to Gatineau's drinking water supply despite a recommendation by Outaouais public health officials in Quebec.

Gatineau city council voted 16-2 against fluoridating the city's water Tuesday following a short debate.

Council acknowledged a report that included a recommendation from Outaouais public health authorities recommending fluoridation. The practice is linked to a reduction in tooth decay among the population.

Drinking water fluoridation

Advocates say:

  • The incidence of tooth decay is reduced among the population when fluoride is added to drinking water.
  • Levels of fluoride found naturally in some water sources is far higher than the levels that would be added to prevent tooth decay.
  • Many studies show no adverse health or environmental effects linked to fluoridation of drinking water.

Opponents say:

  • Some studies show a statistically significant link between exposure to high levels of fluoride and detrimental health effects such as increased risk of bone fractures, reduction of thyroid function, reduced IQ, bone cancer, and tooth discolouration.
  • It's not necessary to expose the entire body to fluoride through ingestion because its positive effects come from its application to teeth, and fluoride-containing toothpastes are readily available.

However, councillors opposed to fluoridation said there was a lack of scientific consensus about the benefits, and some said they have the impression of widespread opposition to the practice in their ward. Mayor Marc Bureau said he thought it should be up to the province to decide whether drinking water should be fluoridated.

Quebec covers the cost of fluoridation for municipalities that choose the treatment for their water.

Pierre Philion, councillor for Saint-Raymond-Vanier, who is in favour of fluoridation, suggested having a referendum on the issue. However, Bureau said the city will not pay for that.

Public health officials said they will respect council's decision.

A report sent by Outaouais public health authorities to Gatineau council on March 31 recommended fluoridation because it is linked to fewer dental cavities. A telephone survey of 400 Gatineau residents 18 and over conducted by health authorities between April 19 and 20 found 58 per cent of respondents were in favour. Only 25 per cent were opposed. The survey is considered accurate within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Drinking water in nearby Ottawa has been fluoridated since 1964.