One finds like-minded citizens in the strangest places. For me, it came when I agreed with Calgary city council’s enfant terrible, Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas. Knock me over with a feather. From the mouth of someone whom, I believe, is still growing his last set of molars, comes an adult opinion about fluoride.
During his campaign for office, he said fluoridation of water is “one of modern society’s premier innovations in health sciences.” Most scientists, doctors and dentists would agree with him. The result of Calgary arbitrarily removing fluoride from our water in 2011 has been an alarming increase in cavities among young children.
It seems silly to be debating proven science, something like questioning whether the Earth is round, whether vaccinating children is good for their health, or whether evolution is more than a “theory.”
When last I railed about fluoride being debated as a health issue, Jeromy was 10. For the first three (of five) plebiscites he hadn’t been born. He was one year old when Calgary voters finally approved adding fluoride to city water. That decision allowed him and his generational cohort the privilege of being raised with the same advantages as children in Edmonton, which not only has naturally fluoridated water from the North Saskatchewan but adds the mineral to bring the level up to the optimal amount of 0.7 parts per million.
How Calgary could have bowed to irrational fears and voodoo science and arbitrarily removed fluoride from our water is nothing short of ridiculous.
Now we are back in the heart of the original debate. A report from University of Calgary scientists on the efficacy of fluoridated water is expected within weeks. (There was no such science-based study done when city council voted to remove fluoride from our water.)
And coming out of the woodwork like a plague of termites are the anti-fluoride activists with their fear-mongering. (No names; no details. I won’t be party to giving them any publicity.)
Two activists (both bearing the honorific of Dr., although only one has a medical degree) are being given space in the new library on Saturday to present their backward views, including that fluoride can damage the brain. The laughable part of this (if fomenting fear is ever funny) is that such claims are based on “scientific” studies conducted in China, India and Mexico, as reported in the Herald last week. I’d suggest if the IQs of children under age 12 in those countries are being lowered and their cognitive functions harmed that science look at the toxicity of the occasionally fetid air — among other environmental disasters — rather than blaming fluoride.
Anti-vaxxers and those who believe there is a worldwide conspiracy to poison their children won’t be swayed by logic or genuine science. They will remain willing sycophants. And will turn out to have their fears compounded.
Curiously, those who worry inordinately are often the same people who have never actually seen the devastating, life-threatening complications of childhood diseases such as polio or measles. They only hear the risks. They choose only to listen to the negatives without considering the statistical chances of being harmed from getting a needle are so minute as to be irrelevant. It’s the same with fluoride.
Life’s risks are endless if you choose to look at them as likely promises instead of unlikely possibilities. Those who oppose fluoride have adopted the former approach, and, because of that, are willing to put the assured dental health of Calgary’s children in second place to the possibility of a rare condition known as dental fluorosis, a discolouring or (at worst) pitting of the tooth enamel.
This thinking believes in such silliness as a whiff of smoke causes cancer; aluminum pots will give you Alzheimer’s; post-menopause hormone-replacement therapy brings on breast cancer; cellphones and overhead power lines cause brain tumours; vaccinations and inoculations are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.
They would willingly place their children and others in harm’s way, especially those children who can least afford to be penalized — children whose parents don’t care or can’t afford regular dental checkups or treatments.
I have no time for them or their misguided opinions.
Catherine Ford is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.