The longstanding debate over the treatment of Sudbury’s water with fluoride will be revived with a planned day of awareness on Saturday.
A local group called Safe Sudbury Drinking Water, affiliated with Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation, has planned to stage a day of awareness about community fluoridation at Victory Park. The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. and will feature a number of speakers and workshops about fluoridation.
Organizers will also hand out a petition asking the city to end the practice of adding fluoride to municipal water.
“It is unproven, unethical and unnecessary,” said Kristen Lavallee, the event’s lead organizer. “I believe it’s unethical because it’s a form of mass-medication to an entire population.”
Lavallee added the fluoridating the city’s water is a waste of taxpayer dollars. She said only around 5% of the city’s fluoridated water is ingested by people. The rest is poured into drains, used in showers, garden hoses, backyard pools, washing machines and other daily uses.
In 2011, Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk asked for and received a detailed report that detailed the costs of treating the city’s water with fluoride.
Staff determined the city spends $95,000 to $115,000 a year to add fluoride to the 83% of residents connected to the city’s water supply.
Because fluoride is corrosive, and is hard on pipelines and electrical components, the city estimated future ventilation upgrades at its facilities could cost up to $2.2 million.
Since the report on the cost of municipal fluoridation, the issue has fallen off council’s radar.
“If taxpayers and citizens want fluoride removed, they’re going to have to let that be known, and she (Matichuk) and council will respond appropriately,” wrote Mike Whitehouse, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, in an email to The Sudbury Star.
Lavallee said she hopes her petition can make municipal fluoridation a hot topic in council.
Recent research has challenged the medical status quo, which has long supported municipal fluoridation as an effective way to prevent dental decay. Sudbury, for instance, has fluoridated its municipal water since 1952.
A joint study between the Harvard School of Public Health and China Medical University, in Shenyang, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal last year, determined that “children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.”
The article, titled “Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” concluded that results from the study support the possibility of an adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment.
Dr. Paul Connett, co-author of The Case Against Fluoride, and executive director of the Fluoride Action Network, based in the United States, told The Sudbury Star one of the issues he sees with municipal fluoridation is that the doses cannot be controlled.
“Engineers can control the concentration at the water works, but what they can’t control the doses people get,” Connett said. “You can’t control how much water they’re drinking and you can’t control how much fluoride they’re getting from other sources.”
Connett has also taken moral issue with the mass delivery of fluoride through municipal water systems. “In modern medicine it’s very important that the individual retains the right to informed consent,” he said. “Once you put that medicine, or chemical, in the water you can’t control the dose and you can’t control who gets it.”
But more than 90 national and international health organizations, including Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Dental Association support municipal fluoridation to prevent dental decay.
“The benefit is in the prevention of disease, and that is the bottom line,” said Dr. Rick Caldwell, president of the Ontario Dental Association. “The well documented science is that there are no known health risks associated with drinking water that is fluoridated within the recommended levels.”
Caldwell, who has a dental practice in New Liskeard, which has municipal fluoridation, said he has seen a marked increase in dental decay in the surrounding communities, which do not have fluoride added to the public water. He added it costs 30 times less to prevent dental problems through fluoridation than to treat cavities and other issues after they occur.
But Connett said socio-economic factors have a greater influence on a person’s oral dental health than whether or not they have access to fluoridated water.