LETHBRIDGE: The city's mayor says recent controversy over the fluoride decision in Calgary will not affect the debate in Lethbridge Monday.
The Alberta Health Services super board has urged the provincial government to over-turn Calgary's decision to remove fluoride from the city's drinking water, but Raijko Dodic says he doesn't expect the board to interfere in Lethbridge until after council makes their decision.
"The reality is, if a resolution is proposed - which I expect it will be - to remove fluoride from the water, if it's passed then perhaps the super board might get involved. But if fluoride remains in the water, then the issue becomes moot," Dodic told Country 95 News Wednesday.
Alberta Environment, the provincial government body tasked with adjusting the approval for the changes to Calgary's water treatment process for fluoride removal, is currently reviewing four "statements of concern" from the public. The statements include a letter from Richard Mustos, the Calgary Medical Officer of Health and a member of the province's health super board. He argues against Calgary's choice to remove fluoride for several reasons, including the idea that the city didn't do enough research or public consultation. But his biggest worry is how the move will affect children - especially impoverished children - who don't have regular access to topical fluoride treatments like toothpaste, and will likely get more cavities. He urges Lethbridge city council to weigh all the options.
"I'm thankful that we can have these discussions," Mustos told Country 95 News Wednesday. "And I'm hopeful that councilors in Lethbridge and elsewhere across the province and the country that are considering it will make the right decision that's best for all citizens."
Ahead of the fluoride debate Monday, Lethbridge city council held a lengthy public discussion on the issue at the beginning of March that featured presentations on both sides of the issue. There were doctors and dentists arguing for keeping fluoride in because of the health and dental benefits, and doctors and dentists who questioned the real efficacy of the chemical in drinking water - saying the decline in the cavity rate since fluoride went into the drinking water is due to better education on tooth brushing and healthier eating. Some also questioned the ethics of "mass medicating" the public with fluoride without knowing the long term effects of such low level exposure to the chemical.
Dodic says the common thinking among his group is they often feel they don't have the right tools to wade through all the information coming at them. "This is one of those issues that I find particularly problematic because so much of it is based on science and council is not geared to assess the science of whether or not fluoride is efficacious or not," he says.
Nevertheless, the provincial government is prepared to do nothing else but give them full authority, no matter what the health super board says. "The decision of whether or not to add fluoride to drinking water is strictly up to the municipality," Carrie Sancartier, an Alberta Environment spokesperson told Country 95 News.
"There is no provincial mandate or law to govern that decision." Sancartier says her ministry is currently deciding whether or not to accept the board's "statement of concern." If they do accept it, their jurisdiction allows them only to refer the statements back to Calgary city council to address.
Even with full authority, Mayor Raijko Dodic says Monday's debate won't be an easy one.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the end. But getting there is going to be long, and it's going to be interesting."
Photo by Marion Warnica, Country 95 News