When our twin sons were born in 1997, the City of Calgary had been adding one part per million of fluoride to our drinking water, which began in 1991.
Back then, health officials declared that the “science was settled” and I, like many other Calgarians, stupidly and unthinkingly believed their earnest declarations that adding fluoride to our water supply was “a safe and effective way” to battle tooth decay.
Two years later, those same medical experts let out a collective scientific oops. It was a quiet oops but one nonetheless, and naturally none of those arrogant medical experts was held accountable for their mistake. Calgary decided to decrease the amount of fluoride in our water to 0.7 ppm — a 30 per cent drop. Clearly, the science from just two years earlier wasn’t so settled after all. The experts were wrong by a whopping one-third. That should give all proponents of mass fluoridation pause.
By then, however, it was too late for my sons, both of whom have evidence of dental fluorosis on their permanent teeth — white chalky-looking spots — which is an indication that their bones have also been weakened as well as their teeth by this so-called safe and effective cavity-preventing additive to our water.
I can feel myself flushing with anger as I write this. Needless to say, my deference to the medical establishment with regard to the safety and effectiveness of fluoride in our water supply was pulled out by the roots and turned on its crown when I realized my children had been harmed by this anti-choice policy. As I’ve written before, I’ve done a lot of research since and if I had the money and the time, I would have sued those medical experts for the damage they inflicted on my kids.
As a parent, I did everything right when it came to our children’s dental health. My husband and I are very intentional parents. When our kids were young they either drank milk or water. No pop and almost no juice. They ate no junk. We used children’s toothpaste, with lower levels of fluoride, and we monitored their teeth brushing, applying the recommended pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste to their toothbrushes in the morning and before bed. Nevertheless, those damned spots are proof positive that they received too much fluoride.
How is that possible? Because unlike most drugs — and yes, fluoride is defined as a drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — where a doctor prescribes the dose and frequency, it’s impossible to know how much fluoride a person is ingesting when it’s added to our water supply. Some people drink a lot of water, others very little. Some people are large, others, like children and babies, are small.
Speaking of babies and fluoride, in 2006 the American Dental Association recommended that parents not prepare baby formula with fluoridated water, something that the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. continues to recommend. Even though I tried to mostly nurse, we supplemented with formula made with fluoridated water for our sons. I sure wish I knew about that settled science when my boys were infants, but it came nine years too late.
One of the main arguments made for fluoridating our water is to prevent cavities in underprivileged children. Some parents, apparently, can’t afford a tube of toothpaste. I just checked, and there are 150 mL tubes of fluoridated toothpaste on sale for 69 cents. Buying bottled water to make powdered formula would cost considerably more, and the science shows that underprivileged women are much more likely to bottle feed their babies than other women.
Next Wednesday at 1 p.m., the City of Calgary’s community and protective services committee will receive a report of new evidence on the merits of fluoridation gathered by the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health. It’s expected that the report will be submitted sometime this week for public review. Next Wednesday, members of the public will be given an opportunity to speak to the committee on this issue.
The main reason fluoride was removed from Calgary’s drinking water in 2011 was because council was being asked to upgrade the fluoride-adding equipment at Calgary’s Glenmore and Bearspaw water treatment facilities. That was expected to cost up to $6 million, not including the $750,000 annual operating cost. Thankfully, council voted against continuing the costly practice of medicating our water.
Oh, and as for that settled science, numerous reports published since Calgary removed fluoride from our water indicates that too much fluoride is linked to lower IQs in children exposed in utero, cognitive issues, kidney problems, endocrine failure, and the list goes on.
In February, Dr. William Ghali, of the O’Brien Institute, told council that the debate over fluoridation requires balancing individual rights and collective protections, drawing comparisons to vaccinations and cellphone use while driving. Here’s hoping he does some deeper thinking in his report than that faulty logic.
Obviously, adding fluoride to our water supply is not at all like driving while using a cellphone. No one must use a phone while driving or even must be vaccinated (though it’s highly recommended). Those are choices.
All of us, however, must consume water. We would die without it.
There is no such thing as Calgary residents having a tap for fluoridated water and non-fluoridated water. Those who choose to not drink or bathe in fluoridated water will have no choice at all should fluoride be added to our water supply again.
On the flip side, those who want to drink and bathe in fluoride can go crazy with the stuff. It’s cheap when prescribed by a physician. I won’t stop you. Promise.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia opinion columnist.
*Original article online at https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/corbella-fluoride-doesnt-belong-in-our-water-supply
Notes from Fluoride Action Network
• July 17: Corbella: Fluoride doesn’t belong in our water supply – Calgary Herald
• July 19: Letters by Block & Coldridge published in response to Corbella’s July 17 column – Calgary Herald
• July 20: Letter by Doug Hand in response to Corbella’s July 17 column – Calgary Sun