The growing controversy over fluoridating drinking water comes to Hamilton today with critics and advocates of the practice making presentations to a city committee.
The city’s health department is recommending it continue using fluoride — at slightly less concentrated levels.
But that doesn’t sit well with representatives from the group People for Safe Water, who have been telling civic leaders in southern Ontario communities that fluoride presents an unnecessary health risk for conditions including cancer.
Quebec City, Thunder Bay and Niagara region recently decided to stop fluoridation, says anti-fluoride advocate Carole Clinch, who is to make a presentation today at the board of health meeting.
She says only 4 per cent of British Columbia and Quebec use fluoridation.
South of the border, 53 cities rejected fluoridation in referendums held in four states on the same day as they cast their votes for a new president earlier this month.
Halton region is also looking at doing away with fluoride in water, and Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville says it’s the most divisive issue he has seen in his five years on regional council, and 11 years on municipal council.
Clinch is research co-ordinator for People for Safe Drinking Water, a duty she now devotes herself to fulltime.
She says the groundswell against fluoridation originated in November 2006.
That’s when the U.S. National Research Council published what she calls the biggest review ever done on water fluoridation, and indicated health concerns at fluoride concentrations lower than Hamilton’s 0.7 milligrams per litre.
One of the authors of the study is a University of Toronto professor.
Fuel was added to the fire when, at the same time, the American Dental Association and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began saying children shouldn’t be given fluoridated water.
In Ontario, it has been a group of six to 10 people putting it on the agendas of every health unit in the central-west part of the province, says associate medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie, who prepared today’s report.
He says they’ve made it their “personal” mission to rid drinking water in southern Ontario of fluoride.
“They’ve gone to every city council and they’ve tried to meet face-to-face with every city councillor in that area, and they’re presenting this selective interpretation of the literature,” he says.
Mackie’s report recommends the board continue fluoridation at 0.6 milligrams per litre, the same level as Halton. Studies have shown the benefits of fluoride level off at 0.6.
The health department report found “the evidence does not support a causal relationship with … health effects such as cancer.”
Clinch says the report is “cherry-picking” and ignores the peer-reviewed findings of the National Research Council, and others.
Mackie says it was a systematic rather than selective review, meaning it included studies from both sides of the fence: “We don’t exclude studies that we disagree with.”