Calgary city council to weigh fluoride study

A city councillor will ask her colleagues to approve a study that would pull together the evidence on the impacts of cancelling water fluoridation.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart will bring back motion defeated two years ago

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart will bring forward a motion at Monday's council meeting asking to take a look at the impacts of removing fluoridation from Calgary's drinking water. (CBC)

If at first you don't succeed, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart says — try, try again.

In 2016, the veteran Calgary city councillor failed to convince her colleagues to take a look at the impacts of the city's decision to stop water fluoridation.

During Monday's council meeting, she will bring forward the exact same motion to see if her colleagues want to revisit the fluoride issue.

Officials at the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health are willing to voluntarily do an assessment on the impacts of ceasing fluoridation.

Colley-Urquhart is tamping down any pro- or anti-fluoride expectations even before this debate is held.

"Before people start putting their hair on fire and me getting all kinds of emails from all around the world that this is bad idea, we are just going to try to see if council will support getting the research done," said Colley-Urquhart.

Polarizing issue

In 2011, the city stopping fluoridating its drinking water.

Those who support fluoridation say it can help prevent tooth decay, especially among children, the elderly and low-income people.

Opponents of fluoridation question the safety of adding it to drinking water and suggest that people should have a choice whether they're exposed to it.

There's no doubt where Colley-Urquhart stands on the issue.

"There's more and more evidence now that perhaps we have caused harm, especially to children, by removing fluoride from the city's drinking water supply," she said.

She wants her colleagues to put what she calls their "personal bias" aside and be willing to read scientific evidence before deciding whether to reopen the fluoride debate.

"You have to have an open mind. You have to be open to persuasion. If the evidence is there, then make the best decision you can for Calgarians," she said. 

If the motion is approved, the medical experts would submit a report back to council no later than June.

Another sign fluoride debate may resume

This is the latest fluoride related matter to be explored by a council member.

Last month, Coun. Jeromy Farkas asked city administration to put together a briefing for city council on the issue. He also wants information on the potential cost of bringing back fluoridation.

When it was scrapped in 2011, adding fluoride to the city's drinking water was estimated to cost about $750,000 a year. 

The city was also looking at a $6 million upgrade of equipment at its water treatment plants for fluoridation.

Farkas said he wasn't happy that after Calgarians voted in favour of fluoridation in two past plebiscites that council decided in 2011, without consulting voters, to stop the practice.


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