While Health Canada is implementing the recommendation of an independent expert panel to reduce the amount of fluoride it urges municipalities to put in drinkable water to 0.7 parts per million, the City of Pointe Claire is already ahead of the pack.
“We’ve been doing that for years,” Mayor Bill McMurchie told The Chronicle. He said the city reduced its fluoride amount to the 0.7 at least three years ago.
The fluoride debate has been raging across Canada for years. Dentists recommend its injection into drinking water as a means to prevent tooth decay and cavities. However, environmentalists say it’s bad for the environment and too much of it may cause fluorosis, or mottled teeth, as well as bone cancer.
“We have to be more careful about how (these chemicals) are added,” said Daniel Green of Sierra Club, an environmental group. He lauded the panel’s recommendation for caution, stating anything that is useful or healthy in small doses can turn out to be dangerous when not consumed in moderation.
Though Green was not opposed to the recommendation, he said a serious look is needed at how much fluoride is already in water before more is added, particularly in the province of Quebec.
“There is a lot of fluoride (in Quebec waters) because of the aluminium industry,” said Green. The cumulative effect of all this dumping is unknown, he said, but he pointed to factories in Baie-Comeau and Shawinigan. “There are so many aluminium plants in the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence River basin,” he added.
Green said studies should be undertaken to determine how much fluoride there already is in the water before anymore is added in Quebec.
Quebec has one of the lowest fluoridation rates of any province in the country, with only eight per cent of the population here receiving fluoride in their drinkable water, according to a 2004 study by the Environment Ministry.
The provincial government encourages fluoride use in water. The 2004 study hopes 50 per cent of Quebecers will have access to fluoridated water by 2012, but sets no particular target as to how much fluoride should be in water.
Montreal does not fluoridate its water, citing the health risks mentioned above, though it became a major issue during the previous municipal elections, with Pierre Bourque, opposition leader at the time, vowing to return fluoride if he were elected.
On the West Island, the City of Dorval also fluoridated its water up to the end of 2003, when it stopped due to an equipment malfunction. After a nearly four-year break, the city was planning to start fluoridating its water again by the end of July, although dosage remains unclear. “The equipment will be ready within the next week or so,” Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau had told The Chronicle two weeks ago. However, no city officials returned phone calls for comment as of press time.