The City of Gatineau is planning a campaign in March to convince residents that fluoride should be added to drinking water, but at least one group is already opposed to the proposal.
Council will decide in April whether Gatineau will add fluoride to its water to reduce tooth decay in children, which is 40 per cent higher in Gatineau than in Ottawa. Ottawa has fluoridated its water since 1964.
But despite the benefits, Nicole Desroches, president of the Conseil régional de l’environnement et de développement durable de l’Outaouais, said there are not enough studies on the cumulative effects of the chemical to prove that it’s safe for humans and the environment.
“We don’t agree with fluoridation because it is aimed at a small proportion of the population. It is usually for underprivileged children under the age of nine,” Ms. Desroches said.
“It is putting something in the water that adults don’t need and we don’t know what the impact on the environment will be. You could always give fluoride to these children directly instead of adding it to the water.”
But Lucie Lemieux, head of the Outaouais public health department, said there are no scientific studies that prove a link between fluoridation and any disease.
Dr. Lemieux says the Quebec public health program calls for increasing the proportion of the population with access to fluoridated water to 50 per cent from seven per cent by 2012.
“We know that two Quebec children out of five have at least one cavity when they enter kindergarten and, by the time they are in the second year of primary school, more than half the children have at least one decayed tooth.”
Pierre Philion, president of the city’s health commission, said many North American cities have fluoridated water, but it is uncommon in many parts of Quebec because people still worry it could cause health problems. Gatineau doesn’t have it because the Outaouais regional government – which existed before the amalgamation of Gatineau in 2001 – rejected it in 1987, after a citizens group convinced people the additive could cause health problems and environmental damage.
Mr. Philion said adding fluoride to Gatineau’s water would cost the city nothing because the provincial government would pay.
“That is better than in Ottawa where it costs city taxpayers $300,000 a year,” Mr. Philion said. “They have had fluoridation for 40 years in Trois Rivières and the province has paid all the costs.”