Airdrie residents can have their say about the fluoride content of their drinking water, Jan. 26, at a public hearing at City Hall in Calgary.
In early January, Calgary Alderman Druh Farrell asked her fellow council members to consider removing the chemical from the city’s drinking water that is shared by many surrounding communities including Airdrie.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi supported the idea of public and expert input before a decision was made on the controversial topic.
Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said Calgary does an outstanding job with the drinking water supply.
“It is treated within established parameters and I believe our drinking water is very safe,” he said. “I don’t have enough information about the topic to decide if fluoride should be taken out of the water and I would defer to the experts in Calgary to better understand the issue.”
Brown said someone from the City of Airdrie will attend the public hearing on Jan. 26.
Local residents and dentists have differing opinions on the issue.
“I think fluoride in the water is a great benefit for everybody,” said Dr. Scott Bell of Bell Dental Group. “I think it is ludicrous to be considering getting rid of it.”
Bell said fluoride strengthens the mineral content of tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant to decay.
“Residents from areas like Irricana and Beiseker that drink well water with an even higher concentration of fluoride have been cavity free their entire lives,” he said.
However, Bell said some people are prone to something called fluorosis, an increased intake of fluoride, which can cause white spots on teeth.
Airdrie resident Leesa Ferguson is familiar with the condition. Her son, born in 1988, suffers from fluorosis because he was given fluoride drops when he was young and then in 1989, Calgary added the chemical to the water as well.
“I don’t agree with fluoride in the water at all,” she said.
“All of us young mothers had no idea they added it to the water, so we kept giving him the drops. I just don’t think it is a good idea. I don’t think it should be literally shoved down our throats.”
She said although the dose of fluoride in the water system is regulated, the amount of water ingested by residents is not.
“How do you know how much is too much?” she asked. “It’s scary because you don’t know if it is safe. They know it is good for your teeth but what are the other ramifications?”
Health Canada, the American Dental Association and the Calgary Health Region say regulated fluoridation is a positive thing for most of the population.
“The fluoride in the water works best when the teeth are in development in the jaw bone so the biggest benefit is for younger children,” said Bell.
He said taking the chemical out of the water would lead to an increase in tooth decay in young children.
“Another population that will benefit is the lower economic portion of the city because this is likely the only exposure they have to fluoride,” he added.
Ferguson said she hopes Airdrie residents will attend the public hearing on Jan. 26 and have their voices heard.
“If people feel strongly about this, they have to voice their opinion,” she said.
“This decision can’t be left up to 10 people on a council. Not a lot of people know Airdrie water comes from Calgary and it is up to the individual to educate themselves on the effects of fluoride.”