A report set to go before Regional Council is recommending Peel stick with current fluoride levels in the municipal water supply, amid growing concerns that fluoride, used mainly to prevent tooth decay, may pose a health risk.
Peel Health has looked into possibly reducing the amount of fluoride in drinking water from 0.7 mg/L (milligrams per litre) to 0.2 mg/L, or the minimum amount recommended by the province and federal government.
The report is in response to Regional Council’s request from a meeting in April that staff research the feasibility of reducing fluoride in drinking water.
At that meeting, Councillors heard from some 20 delegates on both sides of the fluoride debate.
Among the advocates speaking in favour of fluoride was Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Arlene King, who stressed the importance of fluoride for good oral health.
Advocates support the use of fluoride because they argue it makes teeth stronger and helps to reduce the rate of decay, which is particularly beneficial for children in poorer areas who do not have access to regular dental treatment.
However, delegates speaking against the practice, comprised mainly of Peel residents, pointed to evidence they believe shows a link between exposure to fluoride in drinking water and several adverse health affects including dental fluorosis — caused by excessive ingestion of fluoride during the tooth forming years— gene mutation and cancer.
The group has added its voice to a growing chorus of critics across North America arguing water fluoridation presents several ethical issues and can be linked to serious health problems. They called on the Region to stop adding fluoride to the water supply.
In the end, councillors opted to stick with fluoridation — a process that has been used in Peel for some 40 years — but not before asking staff to dig a little deeper into the matter.
Staff largely drew on comprehensive reviews Health Canada did between 2007 and 2010 (the last review was published in 1996), which reaffirmed the agency’s guideline of 0.7 mg/L fluoride concentration in the drinking water supply.
This “optimal level” (between 0.5 and 0.8 mg/L) is necessary to provide the desired protection from dental decay for a population, according to the research.
“Given the extensive review and the current recommendation of 0.7 mg/L, lowering fluoride in drinking water to 0.2 mg/L would not be effective in decreasing tooth decay,” the report to Council states.
But the report does point to the need to better educate the public about proper use of fluoridated toothpaste, especially for young children.
Although governments and industry recommend how much toothpaste people should use, the local public health unit says not enough is done to instill proper practice.
The concern is children that use too much toothpaste could cause fluorosis.
Peel Public Health wants to advocate to Health Canada and the Concerned Children’s Advertisers to more accurately depict appropriate amounts of toothpaste in advertising.