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Fluoride-in-water issue pops up at city council

Fern Cormier said he and other councillors routinely get questions on the topic from residents
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Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier asked city staff Tuesday for all the information the city has about putting fluoride in the city's drinking water system. File photo. (File photo.)

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier asked city staff Tuesday for all the information the city has about putting fluoride in the city's drinking water system.

Cormier made the request Tuesday as councillors were reviewing the annual report on the state of the city's water system. He said it's an issue he and his colleagues are asked about all the time.

"There are pretty regular and frequent emails that I think most of us on council receive from constituents with questions around the levels of fluoride that are in our drinking water system," Cormier said. "Anyone who goes on the Internet and googles the issue will see a myriad of results on both sides of the argument."

The issue was in the news in 2016 when Nairn and Hyman Township council voted to remove fluoride from the community's water supply. The township has had fluoride in its water supply since the early 1990s, but passed a motion last April to remove it.

The Sudbury and District Health Unit quickly condemned the move. 

“I am very concerned by the Nairn and Hyman Township Council’s decision to remove fluoride from its community water supply,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury and District medical officer of health, in a new release at the time. “This is a significant step backwards for oral health for this community. Community water fluoridation makes sure that everyone benefits from the protection that fluoride provides against tooth decay — regardless of factors such as income, age, residence, or education.”

The health unit has said painful tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease in Canadian children and causes much avoidable suffering and stigma. Adding fluoride to the water provides the preventive effects of fluoride to individuals who may not be able to afford other types of fluoride, such as toothpaste and professional treatments.

While he certainly wasn't proposing the city follow suit, Cormier said Tuesday it was a good time to collect information to respond to questions from residents. 

"A lot of municipalities have taken this up as an issue of debate around council tables," he said. "Because we're receiving our annual report on water quality, I felt it was timely to pose the question and ask staff for any past research or studies that they may have with respect to the levels of fluoride we have in our water and how they relate to the safety levels as set by the Province of Ontario."

Nick Benkovich, the city's director of water/wastewater services, said fluoride levels are in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 mg/litre, well within provincial guidelines.

“It's very tightly controlled and monitored on a 24-7 basis,” Benkovich said.



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