Councillors agree to eliminate fluoride, ratification vote next
New Tecumseth councillors voted 6-4 in committee last night to end a 40
year practice of adding fluoride to Tottenham's drinking water supply
following a spirited debate that lasted nearly two hours and involved
pleas from the County's medical officer of health, and the local
dentist who championed the cause back in 1973.
Ward 8 councillor Jim Stone, whose key objective as a member of council
over the years has been to eliminate fluoride from the treatment
process, is now 2-0 at the committee level, winning a similar vote in
March 2009, only to lose it a month later after eight representatives
of various medical stripes descended on the town to change council's
Pitching to keep fluoride in the water last night were Tottenham
dentist Gerry Ross; Dr Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka's Medical
Officer of Health, and Dr Dick Ito, the health unit's dental consultant.
Dr. Ross said he's been a dentist in Tottenham for 43 years and treats
kids from Tottenham, Alliston, and Beeton, and "I can almost tell you
by seven or eight years of age, where
those kids come from."
He said there's a difference of four to six cavities in the baby teeth
of children from Alliston, compared to Tottenham, and he says fluoride
in the water is the difference.
"I feel all the things I've done in dentistry this
is by far my greatest accomplishment was doing this for the children of
Tottenham," said Dr. Ross of the role he played that helped sway 83 per
cent of voters to accept fluoride in their water supply.
Councillor Stone asked whether he was aware at the time about where
fluoride came from, and Dr Ross said he consulted with the Canadian
Dental Association, Ontario Dental
Association, and "they provided me with experts and all the literature
out there, and I brought that knowledge to the council and let the
council make that decision. Where it came from is really meaningless.
What we're talking about is a chemical, what is put in the water, is a
very safe chemical if put in properly with proper recommendations."
"I remember back then," replied Mr. Stone, "my feeling was I didn't
think the people of
Tottenham had a clue where this stuff came from. They were just told
"It was voted 83 per cent in favour," countered Dr. Ross. "It was open
to anybody else to oppose me."
Councillor Stone added "there's only two people who've ever complained
to me about trying to
take the fluoride out, and that was you and Joan Sutherland."
"My passion is this," said Dr. Ross, "this has been my gift
to Tottenham. If I have a legacy, I'm proud to be the man who brought
fluoride into Tottenham. I can't think of a better legacy I can leave
Dr. Gardner was next, armed with a power point presentation that showed
screening results from the schools in New Tecumseth pointing to lower
levels of tooth decay in Tottenham children than the rest of town.
"Fluoridation is a contentious issue, probably the most contentious
issue I face in public health," he said, "so our goal as a health unit
is to provide helpful accurate information." He noted fluoride is added
in "exceedingly low concentrations" of 0.7 parts per million.
In his three page report to council outlining the flaws of fluoride,
Councillor Stone termed it an "industrial waste product" "derived from
scrubbing chimneys of phosphate fertilizer plants and contains arsenic,
lead, mercury, cadnium, barium and radium."
He pointed to studies done at Harvard, and Berkley California
University, and the US Public Health Service, also quoted from the
Canadian Pediatric Society warning against giving fluoride to young
children, and the dangers posed by side affects.
Councillor Stone took exception to suggestions from doctors Gardner and
Ito that studies showing harmful effects caused by fluoride were not
In reply to Ward 6 councillor Richard Norcross's questions about
conclusions in various studies cited by councillor Stone, Dr. Gardner
suggested, "those are not actually studies, those are statements. You'd
have to go
back to the studies themselves and consider them in light of the
"You can't say that these studies that I show are not quality studies.
There's a study from the National Toxicology program in the U.S Public
Health service. Doctors said fluoride caused 10,000 deaths in
California. Three years of study about cancer. United States Food and
Drug Administration never approved fluoride. Never. The American Dental Association said don't give
fluoride to young children. Never," said Councillor Stone. "These
studies were done by professional people that have the same
education as you people that made presentations tonight. This is
dangerous. Why err on the side of something you don't know? This stuff
is dangerous. I'm quoting them. It's doing a lot of harm."
It's a track that other councillors tended to agree with. Ward 1
councillor Bob Marrs moved an amendment which ultimately passed to
suspend fluoridation "until such time that it can be proven that
fluoride does not cause unrelated health issues."
Ward 4 councillor Fran Sainsbury said there is more awareness today
about chemicals that were used in agriculture, and today are banned
because they were deemed to be dangerous to health. She also pointed to
Walkerton and the shift to bottled and filtered water.
"Water is one common denominator you can't live without it. People just
want to know it's safe, and I think they have the right to make their
own choice," said Ms. Sainsbury. "The World Health Organization has
said fluoride is a drug
so I guess you're medicating the water. It may be good for your teeth,
but if it's all going into your stomach, you don't have a lot of teeth
in your stomach. It isn't going to stay there very long, so I think we
should err on the side of caution and I don't think we should just have
one small town out of all of Simcoe County that still has it in the
system. I think we just need a level playing field and then do studies."
Deputy mayor Rick Milne asked if fluoride was so critical, why the
other 15 municipalities in Simcoe County, and Barrie and Orillia, did
not have it in their systems.
"It's history that has led Tottenham to being fluoridated," replied Dr.
Gardner. "There is
superiour oral health status in that community. If in fact it is
removed, we will continue our surveillance. I feel confident over the
years we will see the loss of that benefit that will be documented,
that will be recorded. I'm giving you advice as your medical officer of
health, not to do this."
Ward 2 councillor Jamie Smith said he was not convinced that fluoride
is dangerous in the context being debated.
convincing evidence. I'm not in a position to judge the quality of
these studies," said councillor Smith. "The only people who've spoken
to us tonight who are in a
position to do this are the medial officer of health and Dr Ito and Dr
He said the one aspect he went deeper to investigate is how fluoride
"It's an industrial byproduct, they make one product and it's what's
leftover. It's no more waste, that's hyperbole to call it waste," he
really think those who are about to support these motions, have
forgotten what they learned in high school, and how to do a critical
examination of facts. There are very few citations here. I think we
would be doing something that is unfair to the general population.
Nobody on council is educated enough - and I'm not being nasty
about that - has the right training to understand these studies, and
people that do, tell us that we should keep fluoridation there. We
don't ignore our lawyer, why should we ignore our doctor?
Mayor Mike MacEachern echoed the call to heed the medical advice. "We
have our public health unit, our doctor that is in charge of public
health telling us this is an important thing we're doing in our
community and he is advising us not to (remove) it. I think he has a
responsibility to keep our community safe. I get a little concerned
that people start to think that there's other ramifications in regards
"My colleagues take our duties very seriously, and we view the
community, the population as the patient, our patient. Just like a
family doctor would view someone as their patient, I view the
community as my patient," said Dr. Gardner. "I have a duty to be
thorough in my
understanding of the evidence on this topic.... I consider myself
knowledgeable on this topic, so I
would like to assure this council we consider very broadly all the
health implications of everything we speak to including community water
"I think you've proven to me it has a positive significant health
impact," said the mayor, "particularly the children in Tottenham and
I'm not going to be
a part of removing that."
Councillors Marrs said he has seen the evidence on both sides, and
appreciated that it reduces dental cavities.
"I don't have a
problem with that, my problem is the possible side affects. There's a
lot of information, credible sources, we're sitting here and saying
we're going to continue to do this, when we do not absolutely know that
this is creating other serious problems," he said, pointing to the
pesticide debate of a few years ago, whereby Health Canada had said
they were safe, and "they're banned now. I think it should be stopped."
Dr. Gardner said because "you can never have an absolute certainty
means you will forego many
beneficial things. Insisting on that degree of certainty, simply in
reality doesn't exist. In my opinion you'd be doing a disservice to the
children and all in that community."
Councillor Norcross said the problem he was having on the matter was
the fact "something is going into the
water system that people don't have a choice. People in Tottenham had a
choice to put it in their water maybe we should give them the choice
back where they can review the pros and cons make a decision to take it
out of the water supply... "there's something in the water
people may not want."
Councillor Haire suggested the town should have one water system "that
is the best we can do, I
don't think having a separate one for Tottenham is the answer. .....
"either fluoride's good for you, or it isn't good for you. And it's not
just a matter of dental health, it's a matter of all kinds of health,
and what it does residually in the body."
In conclusion before the vote was called, Councillor Stone said during
the last election he campaigned to get fluoride out of the water, and
he was elected.
"I find it a bit
demeaning that we councillors are told we don't know how to read, or
because we don't have letters. I find that a lot of highly educated
people if they're not up on something, then they're down on it. I don't
think we should put them down because we aren't doctors."
Next week a draft bylaw will be presented to ask the province to amend
the Certificate of Approval that would end fluoridation. It's expected
the debate will flare up again prior to the final vote.