Lake Cowichan votes to eliminate fluoride from water


69% of voters chose to stop adding fluoride to the water supply

Lake Cowichan voters decided Nov. 19 not to continue fluoridating the town’s water system, ending a practice begun when many current residents were children.

Town councillor Tim McGonigle was a major force behind getting the subject onto a ballot and he said Sunday, Nov. 20 that he’s happy with the result.

“I just wanted to let the public give us some direction. And it looks like 69 per cent of those who voted have voiced their opinion that it should be removed,” he said.

A total of 335 voters told council to discontinue the use of fluoride while only 147 people said “yes” to keeping the system going.

Asked if he guessed ahead of time that this would be the result, McGonigle said, “Prior to bringing [the idea of a referendum] forward, I had a couple of citizens approach me about their concerns on fluoride.”

That only reinforced his own concerns and led him to do some investigation on communities within B.C. that currently fluoridate their water.

There were only seven at the time. Lake Cowichan was the only one on Vancouver Island.

“I felt that fluoride in the water system had run its course, like other things from the baby boomer era such as leaded paint, leaded gas. Those things that we always thought were okay. In those days we also rode bikes without helmets, we rode in cars without seatbelts. I’m surprised that any of us survived,” he added, laughing.

“But all joking aside I felt very impassioned personally about it.”

So, McGonigle, who chairs the town’s public works committee, is pleased but not positive about what comes next.

“I know it’s not going to happen overnight.

Even though there was a 69 per cent mandate, it’s still a process to remove it. I’m not sure whether VIHA [the Vancouver Island Health Authority] have to be involved to remove it properly and whether or not there’s still inventory we have to use up. If it’s going to cost more to mitigate the fluoride we have, if there’s three 45-gallon barrels and it’s going to cost a certain amount of dollars to get rid of it because it is a hazardous material under the WHMIS program, it might be better to use it up before we transfer over,” he said.

So, now it will go to council.

“We’ll probably get some information from our public works department as to inventory, and timelines. Person-ally, I’m hoping that by the new year it will be eliminated from the water supply but I’m not going to tie myself to that because I’m only one voice,” McGonigle said.

He shared a bit of his research into fluoride.

“It is a byproduct of the fertilizing industry.

The fluoride that’s used in the water system is scraped from smokestacks used in those processing plants – there’s an interesting little fact for you. And, I was very surprised at how much is in our diet that nobody takes into consideration.

Back when [Lake Cowichan’s fluoridation] was implemented you didn’t have the opportunity of fluoride in your toothpaste. Another prime example is processed de-boned meat. I don’t know why but it has a high concentration of fluoride. It’s found in green tea, baby juices – it’s very interesting,” he said.

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