News / Calgary

Province won’t fund city fluoridation: Alberta Health

Councillors say fluoridation should fall under public health

The province says it's not in the fluoride business.

Metro File Photo

The province says it's not in the fluoride business.

The government won’t throw in its chips to fluoridate water, despite calls from some city councillors who say water fluoridation is a public health responsibility. 

The fluoride debate was revived after a University of Calgary study that found tooth decay in children has increased since the chemical was removed from the city’s drinking water.

The city doesn’t plan to reintroduce fluoride but, if it did, Alberta Health said it’s not planning to take responsibility for fluoridation in communities, according to a statement from the department. 

They said municipalities have always dealt with water fluoridation, adding the government’s role is to make recommendations based on scientific evidence.

But that’s where Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans disagrees. 

Pootmans, who voted for water fluoridation during city council’s 2011 motion to stop adding fluoride to to drinking water, said the government should contribute some funds for fluoridation, if it’s re-introduced. 

“Good health is impossible without good dental health, so why won’t Alberta Health get engaged with this?” he said. “They said they cannot and will not.”

Pootmans, who recently met with Alberta Health Services’ Dr. Richard Musto about water fluoridation, said it would make sense for Alberta Health to contribute to the cost, given it supports the practice.

“I’m disappointed — I think it would help our cause,” he said, noting there’s very few councillors who support water fluoridation.

Arguments against city fluoridation include costs and mass dosing the population. 

Prior to 1991 — when the city began fluoridating water — Alberta Health Services provided fluoride drops as part of a public health program, but discontinued the practice due to more instances of fluorosis.

But when it comes to mass fluoridation, the city has always paid for the service. 

Pootmans understands the city has been the sole funder for fluoride but, according to council’s 2011 decision, the city can’t afford it, he said. 

In late February, Mayor Naheed Nenshi urged the public to seek a plebiscite if they feel strongly about fluoride.

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