Councillor calls for open minds ahead of motion on review of fluoride research
Ward 13 councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart is asking her fellow council members to review the research before cementing their opinion on whether fluoride should be reintroduced into Calgary’s water supply.
“These are well-respected, objective researchers that can look at all the evidence that’s out there and examine (it) and bring back their recommendations and their findings and, if they have any recommendations, make those to council,” said Colley-Urquhart of the O’Brien Institute of Public Health’s research into fluoride.
“I’m asking my council colleagues to please just let O’Brien do their work, look at the recent research, look at the impact now that we’ve pulled (fluoride) out for three or four years, look at the impact that this had had on some children, and to make the best public policy decision we can and leave your biases at the door.”
The motion is scheduled to be heard by council on Monday.
“We want to help support the decision making of the city knowing that there is a lot of opposition out there to fluoride,” said Dr. William Ghali, director of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary. “There are also pretty compelling arguments for fluoride in the water.”
“What we want to do, in relation to this motion, is pull together information on either side of this debate, organize it, get experts – not just one expert, get a group of experts – from our university and our institute to help the City make a multi-dimensional decision.”
Colley-Urquhart, who has served on council for nearly 19 years, has made an independent review of fluoride a campaign platform during the last two municipal elections. She says she has received messages from across Canada from fluoride proponents and opponents after she brought forward the exact same motion of notice to council to review the issue in 2016. That motion was dismissed by a vote of 9-5.
“People have a real (confirmatory) bias,” said Colley-Urquhart. “They have very, very set opinions about whether fluoride is good or bad.”
The Ward 13 councillor says she has not taken a side on the debate. “I think it would really undermine my motives and my credibility if I already took a hardened position on this. I’m open to be influenced by the best advice that we can get on this.”
A University of Calgary study conducted in 2016 determined that the removal of fluoride from the city’s water supply had been detrimental to the dental health of children. The research found that children in Calgary have, on average, nine cavities while their counterparts in Edmonton, where fluoride continues to be added to the water, average four cavities.
The City of Calgary stopped adding fluoride to the water supply in 2011 following a council vote. At the time, the additive cost roughly $750,000 on an annual basis.
Should the city elect to reintroduce fluoride in the future, it’s estimated the necessary upgrades to the dormant fluoridation system would carry a $6 million price tag.
With files from CTV’s Jordan Kanygin