A report revealing that twice as many Dorval children have developed cavities since the city stopped fluoridating its water has infuriated dentists and worried local parents, but some scientists are cautioning that re-fluoridating the water could cause more problems than it would solve.
The fluoride in the drinking water is not pharmaceutical grade fluoride, noted Sierra Club scientific advisor Daniel Green, but chemical grade fluoride or fluorosilicic acid, which has never been approved by the American FDA or by Health Canada as a drug or a food additive. “Because of the quantities needed to fluoridate entire communities, it would be too expensive for companies to use pharmaceutical grade fluoride,” Green said.
Fluorosilicic acid is a byproduct of the aluminum smelting and phosphate fertilizer industries and contains amounts of other chemicals from those industries, including lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. “There is enough lead in fluoridated water to increase blood lead levels in children that leads to increased tooth decay,” said Gilles Parent, N.D., who co-authored the book La fluoration: autopsie d’une erreur scientifique with Pierre-Jean Morin, Ph.D and lawyer John Remingtom Graham.
The book contains over 700 scientific references to recent studies that link fluoride to dental and bone fluorosis, mongolism, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid dysfunction, and a host of mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic effects.
After studying 25,000 articles and reports, the authors found fluoridation was not effective in reducing tooth decay. Parent mentioned two studies, one from the government of Ontario and another from the University of York in England, which both conclude that fluoride has little, if any impact in reducing cavity rates.
Dr. Stéphane Schwartz, head of preventive dentistry at the Montreal Children’s hospital, disagrees. The member of the Montreal Coalition for Healthy Teeth told The Chronicle that fluoride lowers rates of tooth decay by 50 per cent. “All the dentists working together would not come to that result,” she said, adding that fluoridation was listed by the World Health Organization as one of the ten most important public health initiatives.
Schwartz says she’s “not terribly surprised” by the results of the Dorval study, which surveyed 385 children between 2003 and 2005. In 2003, while the city was still adding fluoride to its water supply, two dental hygienists from the CLSC Dorval-Lachine examined 122 kindergarten children in the area’s public schools. Twelve of these children were afflicted with caries – decay of the tooth enamel that can lead to cavities if left unchecked. In 2005, over a year after the city stopped fluoridating its water, 27 children out of 127 had caries. A survey conducted in Lachine during the same time period revealed fairly constant numbers of cavity-ridden children.
Green, who has a 14-year-old son and is also a member of the Societé pour Vaincre La Pollution, admitted he is literally “in the dentist’s chair” when it comes to the fluoride debate. He would rather see a more “hands-on interventionist” approach taken by clinics in schools to promote better nutrition and oral hygiene.
However, Schwartz says the schools have tried this approach before – and it hasn’t worked. She is adamant that kids need to be treated in their first few years of life in order to stop cavities from forming. “We ask them to come in for their first dental appointment at the age of one, so if decalcification starts, we can reverse it,” she said. “If you have a child who comes in full of cavities at the age of four or five, it’s too late. If you take fluoride supplements when you’re 15, it’s not going to make a heck of a difference.”
The benefits of drinking fluoridated water would only affect young children whose teeth are still forming, but the water could adversely effect others in the population, including the elderly, people with renal dysfunction, or osteoporosis sufferers, Green said.
Green is also concerned about the amount of fluoride that sewers would discharge into a river system already heavily contaminated with pharmaceuticals and additional fluoride from nearby aluminum smelting industries.
“I always used to say our fish must have the nicest teeth,” quipped Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau, who will meet with the Ministry of Health and Social Services at the end of August to discuss re-fluoridation of Dorval’s water. The city stopped adding fluoride in 2003, after the province refused to pay the $450,000 needed to upgrade its water treatment facilities unless the entire island of Montreal agreed to be fluoridated.
“The thinking is, if it’s good for the kids, we want it,” Rouleau said. “And we do want it; (the Ministry) can fight with Montreal.”
To find out more about the Montreal Coalition for Healthy teeth, visit www.dentsensante.ca
To find out more about Action Fluor Québec, a local group opposed to fluoridation, check www.acmqvq.com/afq/afq.htm