Is municipal water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest achievements in public health during the 20th century, or is fluoridation “the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century?”
Parents are bombarded with often contradictory information about what is best for our children’s health.
Water fluoridation is a perfect example. More than 70 per cent of Ontarians are exposed to fluoride through water systems and that’s a good thing for our oral health, says the Canadian Dental Association and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (which made the claim above that fluoridation is a great achievement), among others.
Last week, the Middlesex-London Health Unit endorsed the formation of an Ontario fluoridation office, that would keep track of information in the province on this topic.
“The office is really to act as a resource to consolidate all of the up-to-date information,” said Neil Farrell, director of dental services for the local health unit. “The reason we’re fluoridating water is for a person’s oral health and I don’t want people to lose sight of that.
One of the challenges for health units is some communities, including Stratford, have natural fluoride in their water that is above recommended levels of 1.5 mg/litre. London’s water is between 0.5 to 0.8.
Farrell recommends that if water has excess fluoride, children under seven should drink from another source.
While the CDA said more than 50 years of extensive research has demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of fluoride, an excess accumulation of fluoride can be toxic and result in death. There are warnings on toothpastes that children under six should only use a tiny amount and be supervised while brushing.
A column published in The Free Press in January tells the story of a Brooklyn boy who died after swallowing fluoride from a treatment by a dental hygienist who had failed to tell him to spit it out. That column was followed by a letter to the editor from Wayne Halstrom, CDA president, who worried about the article’s negative impression of fluoride and fluoridation.
“Fluoride is safely and effectively delivered in a number of ways . . . to provide ongoing benefits while tooth enamel is forming,” he wrote.
There are many who fight to get fluoride banned from drinking water and to warn us of the dangers of this element, including Robert Carton, a scientist who spent 20 years working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and who has stated fluoridation is a fraud.
He was convinced that fluoridation presented an “unacceptable risk to public health.”
And then there is the cost issue. In West Elgin, council decided not to add fluoride to the water recently even though the Elgin-St. Thomas Health Unit requested it do so.
“It’s a cost benefit: we didn’t feel the cost justified the benefit,” said Mayor Graham Warwick.
So what are parents to do?
We opt for a fluoride-free paste and use tap water for drinking, but when my children were babies, any water they consumed was bottled.
This poses yet another dilemma for parents. Is bottled water safe? Round and round we go again.