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Report details fluoride use in city's water supply

Backed by health unit and Health Canada, practice is still controversial for some
Greater Sudbury spends $100,000 to $120,000 a year fluoridating tap water, according to a report headed to the operations committee next week. (File)

Greater Sudbury spends $100,000 to $120,000 a year fluoridating tap water, according to a report headed to the operations committee next week.

The report was commissioned last spring following a request from Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier. Cormier said at a meeting in March that councillors routinely get asked about fluoride in the city's drinking water.

"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. Nick Benkovich, the city's director of water/wastewater services, said in March that 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.

The report headed to the operations committee said the fluoride budget is spent on buying chemicals, operational and maintenance labour, parts and materials, as well as medical surveillance for staff. 

“There are 12 sites that are in need of fluoride isolation rooms, with a total estimated cost of $4 million,” the report said. “The first phase of the design and tendering of five of these fluoride units is underway. Funding for this phase has been set aside in the previous capital budgets for Well Building Upgrades. 

“Future capital budgets for Well Building Upgrades are forecast to include the balance of funding for the remaining fluoride units. The estimated time frame for the completion of all 12 sites is six years.”

Fluoridating water has been done in Sudbury since 1952, and 67 per cent of municipalities in Canada do the same. It has been shown to dramatically reduce tooth decay among children, but the practise has been criticized by some as unsafe.

“In 2011, the City of Calgary, Alta., stopped adding fluoride to the drinking water citing potential cost savings,” the report said. “Several recent news items have indicated that the fluoridation debate has been refueled in that community by stories about rising rates of tooth decay among children in Calgary since fluoride was removed from the water supply.”

Read the full report here.


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