Framing the Fluoride Debate

Ever since it was first proposed for use in municipal water systems in the 1930s (1), fluoride use has been the centre of a highly polarized and often very emotional debate between opponents and proponents.

In 1945, Brantford was the first Canadian municipality to add fluoride to its drinking water. Municipal usage grew until 2009, when Health Canada estimated about 45 per cent of the country’s population was drinking fluoridated water. Since then, popular movements to remove fluoride have reduced that to about 37 per cent (2).

Still, in Ontario the percentage of the population drinking fluoridated water remains above 75 per cent. (3)

While guidelines for fluoride were created by both federal and provincial governments, until recently, in Ontario it was left to the individual municipality to decide its use. Then, in early October, the Ontario Legislature passed a private member’s bill that bans municipalities from removing fluoride from their water supplies. That might signal a future change in provincial policies and legislation.

Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney’s 2016 motion is non-binding, but it opened the debate again (4). And it is one the Ontario Municipal Water Association believes should be discussed in context with municipal issues and concerns and with full consultation with its members.

“We’re not going to debate the science,” Andrew Henry, president of OMWA, said at a recent meeting of the board of directors where the issue was a hot topic of discussion. “That’s not our business. Our role is policy, politics and governance.”

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