Carleton Place councillor Jerry Flynn is determined to see fluoride removed from the drinking water in Carleton Place and he’s hopeful local residents will join him in a campaign to end a practice he feels is harmful to human health.
“There is just so much information out there now about the harmful effects of fluoride. I receive more information on a daily basis. And more and more places (communities) have decided to stop fluoridating their water,” Flynn told the EMC.
He is urging Carleton Place residents and Canadians in general to “put pressure on their politicians” in an effort to end a program he is convinced is more negative than positive.
There are varying points of view of course, but Flynn is accurate when he says more and more communities are opting to stop putting fluoride in their potable water. A recent example is Calgary, one of Canada’s largest centres, which decided in February to end fluoridation. The council vote was 10-3 overturning a 1989 plebiscite which saw fluoride added to the city’s drinking water in an effort to prevent tooth decay.
In Ontario the city of Waterloo decided last October to end the practice.
Flynn, who won a second consecutive term on Carleton Place town council in last fall’s municipal election, admits his personal determination hasn’t translated into support at the council table here.
“The last council (headed by former Mayor Paul Dulmage) voted me down 6-1. I was proposing we investigate it. They didn’t even want to do that,” he laments.
Flynn is now convinced the best way to end the practice is to get residents onside in his effort to ban fluoridation here. There is a large citizen movement in Canada to end the practice and Flynn says support nationally is growing. There is also a growing lobby in nearby Ottawa to take fluoride out of the city’s water.
“There are now 36 Canadian communities that have quit fluoridating their water since 1990,” Flynn points out.
Nine of those centres are in Ontario. Over the years a number of communities have also turned down initiatives aimed at introducing fluoridation. That means they have never put fluoride into their drinking water. Leading the list is Canada’s second most populous city, Montreal. Other cities include Gatineau, across the Ottawa River from the nearby nation’s capital and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Fluoridation first began in Canada 60 years ago. Health Canada statistics (last compiled in 2007) show 45 per cent of Canadians drink fluoridated water. The highest percentage of use is in populace Ontario (75.9 per cent in 2007). British Columbia shows a very low 3.7 per cent while the Yukon and Nunavut Territories have no fluoride in drinking water.
There is powerful support for the practice however. Dentists and official bodies including the World Health Organization and Health Canada contend adding the mineral to water protects teeth from decay.
Opponents, including Flynn, have been swayed by information that fluoride is harmful to human health although that has never been conclusively proven.
In Calgary a family physician, Dr. Robert Dickson, led that city’s successful anti- fluoride campaign earlier this year.
Dickson argues it is better to let citizens choose how much fluoride they get, rather than administering it to everyone in drinking water.
Besides drinking water, fluoride is contained in most toothpastes and mouth wash available on the market today.
“Let’s put it on there with (tooth) brushing,” Dr. Dickson told the media during the recent campaign in that western city. “Let’s put it on at the dentist if you choose.” He observes that most dentists offer fluoride treatments to their patients.
“Let’s not put it inside our bodies where it doesn’t work,” Dickson told the CBC in January.
Opponents of fluoride argue the mineral, when taken regularly in drinking water, may contribute to some forms of cancer. They point to research which shows fluoride could be a factor in bone cancer for example. Some medical people claim it has a negative impact on thyroid function, heightens the risk of bone pain or bone fractures and leads to negative neurological effects.
Above all else, they state, not enough research has been done on the potential harmful effects of introducing fluoride into drinking water.
Proponents of the practice counter that research on the subject is moderate and does not clearly demonstrate any connection between fluoride and cancer. They say that in carefully administered low doses its benefit in slowing tooth decay has been proven. Children and the poor are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay, they argue.
One point that most agree on is that fluoride does increase the risk of “fluorosis” a dental condition in which stains or tiny pits appear on teeth if too much fluoride is ingested. Dentists who oppose fluoride in drinking water say fluorosis is not only a cosmetic problem but leads to an increase in cavities, especially in young children.
The recent anti-fluoridation campaign in Waterloo leaned heavily on the argument that since there are so many ways to obtain fluoride it is no longer necessary to add it to drinking water.
Less than half the city’s eligible voters turned out for last year’s referendum on the subject. The anti-fluoride side won by a narrow margin.
Meanwhile Flynn is hopeful Carleton Place residents will pressure council into “at least investigating the matter.
“This (fluoride) is one of the most toxic substances known to man,” he told the EMC in an interview earlier this year.
“It’s a factor in all kinds of ailments.”
He says fluoride “has been taken out of the drinking water in Europe” with no perceptible increase in dental problems. Access to fluoride through toothpaste is credited with the current situation in Europe.
Flynn believes that under public pressure town council here will be forced to act.
“As elected officials we are obligated to investigate this on behalf of our residents.”
He argues “the status quo isn’t good enough.
“I hope local people will look at this carefully. It is their issue.”
Flynn drinks well water so the fluoride issue doesn’t impact him personally.
“This isn’t my issue it is your issue. As a politician I am here to serve the best interests of our people.”
Carleton Place obtains its potable water from the Mississippi River. It is distributed through a network of underground pipes from the town’s water treatment facility in Riverside Park. The town has been adding fluoride to the water “for decades”, Flynn explains.
The councillor feels that due to recent developments, including other communities banning fluoride, this is a good time for a campaign to investigate the matter.
“I’m convinced this is a big issue. And I will do whatever I can to help eradicate fluoride from the town’s drinking water supply.”
During last year’s municipal election campaign Flynn told the EMC he would like to see the issue taken to a referendum. Last week he reiterated that position!
“If there is any indication of health risks – and I believe there is – then we should be seriously looking at this.
“I would support a referendum if that is what the public in Carleton Place wants. I will be the leader of a campaign if people want to join a movement in this direction.
“Put pressure on the politicians to investigate it at the very least,” he suggests.
Flynn says there are many aspects involved but people’s health is his primary concern.
“We don’t have to be medicated, as a society, without our consent.
“It may even be a human rights issue,” he contends.
“I am adamant that this get done. I just want it (fluoride) out.”
Flynn invites public comments and says he would appreciate support in his mission to end the fluoridation of drinking water in Carleton Place. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.