LETHBRIDGE: After hours of debate, Lethbridge city council has voted 5-4 to keep fluoride in the region's drinking water.
As heated debate wore on Monday afternoon, alderman after alderman explained their point of view and why they came to the conclusion they did.
"If experts can't agree on the benefit versus the harms of ingesting fluoride, who am I to determine if there's a public health benefit?" asked Ald. Bridget Mearns as she introduced her motion to remove fluoride. "I'm not qualified to determine which side of the argument is right, nor am I inclined to believe it's up to the municipal government to administer a chemical or drug to its entire population."
Ald. Faron Ellis was the second to agree with her, citing his reservations over the ethics of giving a mass dose to the population and eliminating their choice in the matter. Ald. Joe Mauro also joined the side in favour of taking fluoride out, as did Ald. Liz Iwaskiw.
"It may be that fluoride is good for your teeth, but what about what it does to the rest of your body?" she questioned during her very brief, but passionate speech about the lack of scientific evidence on the safety of long term, low level doses of fluoride. "There's a minister of health from Ontario who said - what is the effect of fluoridated water if continued throughout a lifetime. And no one has ever answered that question."
Leading the charge of those opposed to taking fluoride out of drinking water was Mayor Raijko Dodic, who said the existing research on the benefits of the chemical is enough for him.
"It's very clear that the science supports that it's appropriate to have fluoridation in our water. In my mind, that's uncontroverted in terms of peer-reviewed research," he said during the debate.
Ald. Ryan Parker drew his line in the sand over the issue of how the decision to take fluoride out would affect lower income families.
"If we can do something to take care of the people that don't get regular health care, ethically I have the opportunity and the right - and something I should do - is allow fluoride to be in our system," he argued.
Parker was joined by Ald. Jeff Carlson, Ald. Jeff Coffman and finally, Ald. Tom Wickersham.
The decision comes after an extensive public meeting at the end of February where experts and citizens representing all sides of the issue presented their arguments. A similar debate has raged lately in Calgary, where city council voted 10-3 in February to take fluoride out of their drinking water supply. Last week, the Alberta Health super board tried to appeal the decision by submitting a "statement of concern" to Alberta Environemnt, the provincial body responsible for overseeing the process of taking fluoride out of Calgary's water treatment facility.
But Alberta Environment firmly rejected AHS's letter, and ministry spokesperson Carrie Sancartier told Country 95 News that final responsibility for the decision to allow or take fluoride out rests solely with each municipality.
Photo by Marion Warnica, Country 95 News